Index relies entirely on the support of donors and readers to do its work.
Help us keep amplifying censored voices today.
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Social media platforms have enormous influence over what we see and how we see it.
We should all be concerned about the knee-jerk actions taken by the platforms to limit legal speech and approach with extreme caution any solutions that suggest it’s somehow easy to eliminate only “bad” speech.
Those supporting the removal of videos that “justify discrimination, segregation or exclusion based on qualities like age, gender, race, caste, religion, sexual orientation or veteran status” might want to pause to consider that it isn’t just content about conspiracy theories or white supremacy that will be removed.
In the wake of YouTube’s announcement on Wednesday 5 June, independent journalist Ford Fischer tweeted that some of his videos, which report on activism and extremism, had been flagged by the service for violations. Teacher Scott Allsopp had his channel featuring hundreds of historical clips deleted for breaching the rules that ban hate speech, though it was later restored with some videos still flagged.
It’s not just Google’s YouTube that has tripped over the inconsistent policing of speech online.
Twitter has removed tweets for violating its community standards as in the case of US high school teacher and activist Carolyn Wysinger, whose post in response to actor Liam Neeson saying he’d roamed the streets hunting for black men to harm, was deleted by the platform. “White men are so fragile,” the post read, “and the mere presence of a black person challenges every single thing in them.”
In the UK, gender critical feminists who have quoted academic research on sex and gender identity have had their Twitter accounts suspended for breaching the organisation’s hateful conduct policy, while threats of violence towards women often go unpunished.
Facebook, too, has suspended the pages of organisations that have posted about racist behaviours.
If we are to ensure that all our speech is protected, including speech that calls out others for engaging in hateful conduct, then social media companies’ policies and procedures need to be clear, accountable and non-partisan. Any decisions to limit content should be taken by, and tested by, human beings. Algorithms simply cannot parse the context and nuance sufficiently to distinguish, say, racist speech from anti-racist speech.
We need to tread carefully. While an individual who incites violence towards others should not (and does not) enjoy the protection of the law, on any platform, or on any kind of media, tackling those who advocate hate cannot be solved by simply banning them.
In the drive to stem the tide of hateful speech online, we should not rush to welcome an ever-widening definition of speech to be banned by social media.
This means we – as users – might have to tolerate conspiracy theories, the offensive and the idiotic, as long as it does not incite violence. That doesn’t mean we can’t challenge them. And we should.
But the ability to express contrary points of view, to call out racism, to demand retraction and to highlight obvious hypocrisy depend on the ability to freely share information.[/vc_column_text][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1560160119940-326df768-f230-4″ taxonomies=”4883″][/vc_column][/vc_row]
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”100082″ img_size=”full”][vc_column_text]The following statement signed by 52 international organisations was delivered by Article 19 at the UN Human Rights Council on 27 June 2018.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Thank you Mr. President,
The Russian Federation is pursuing policies that are significantly and rapidly encroaching online freedoms affecting not only the rights of people living in Russia but Internet users everywhere. Through the steady adoption of a raft of regressive legislation contravening international standards on freedom of expression, including access to information and the right to privacy, as well as placing unjustified pressure on Internet intermediaries, the Russian Federation is creating a framework, which, if fully implemented, would not only severely limit the free flow of information online but potentially give them access to the personal communication data of anyone, anywhere.
Last month, ARTICLE 19 together with 56 international and Russian human rights, media and Internet freedom organisations condemned the mass Internet disruption caused by the Russian Federation’s attempts to block the Internet messaging service Telegram, which resulted in extensive violations of freedom of expression including access to information. Almost 20 million Internet Protocol (IP) addresses were ordered to be blocked causing an unprecedented level collateral website blocking.
The basis of the authorities’ action was Telegram’s noncompliance with the highly problematic 2016 so-called ‘Yarovaya Law’, justified on the grounds of “countering extremism”, which requires all communications providers and Internet operators to store metadata about their users’ communications activities, to disclose decryption keys at the security services’ request, and to use only encryption methods approved by the Russian government – in practical terms, to create a backdoor for Russia’s security agents to access internet users’ data, traffic, and communications. In July 2018, other articles of the ‘Yarovaya Law’ will come into force requiring companies to store the content of all communications for six months and to make them accessible to the security services without a court order. This would affect the communications of both people in Russia and abroad, violating their right to privacy and creating a further chilling effect to freedom of expression and access to information.
Such attempts by the Russian authorities to restrict online communications and violate privacy, supposedly for the protection of national security, are neither necessary nor proportionate. The Russian Government must repeal ‘Yarovaya Law’ and refrain from pressuring Internet intermediaries to comply with requests that will violate their users’ rights or face having their services blocked inside the country.
Since 2012, Russia has operated a blacklist of Internet websites and incrementally extended the grounds upon which websites can be blocked, including without a court order. The permanent blocking of several online media outlets and also LinkedIn – are completely unjustified and can only be seen as examples to intimidate others into compliance. Individual Internet users have also been persecuted for online expression or even simply liking or sharing content on social media platforms.
Legislation currently under consideration includes further social media regulation (Proposed Bill № 223849-7) which would among other concerns eradicate the possibility of online anonymity and pressure companies to take down “unverifiable” information; as well as proposed amendments to the Criminal Code (Article 284.2) (Proposed Bill № 464757-7) that would criminalise information leading to ‘international sanctions’, which could be used to prevent the media reporting on public interest matters or NGOs conducting international advocacy. Both pieces of legislation, if adopted, would have a negative impact on the free flow of information and should not be brought into law.
Russia: 50+ international and Russian NGOs condemn Telegram block and Russia’s assault on Internet freedom, 15 May 2018 – https://www.article19.org/resources/russia-international-and-russian-ngos-condemn-telegram-block-and-russias-assault-on-freedom-of-expression-online/[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”stretch_row_content”][vc_column][three_column_post title=”Digital Freedom” full_width_heading=”true” category_id=”4883″][/vc_column][/vc_row]
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]We, the undersigned 53 international and Russian human rights, media and Internet freedom organisations, strongly condemn the attempts by the Russian Federation to block the internet messaging service Telegram, which have resulted in extensive violations of freedom of expression and access to information, including mass collateral website blocking.
We call on Russia to stop blocking Telegram and cease its relentless attacks on internet freedom more broadly. We also call the United Nations (UN), the Council of Europe (CoE), the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the European Union (EU), the United States and other concerned governments to challenge Russia’s actions and uphold the fundamental rights to freedom of expression and privacy online as well as offline. Lastly, we call on internet companies to resist unfounded and extra-legal orders that violate their users’ rights.
Massive internet disruptions
On 13 April 2018, Moscow’s Tagansky District Court granted Roskomnadzor, Russia’s communications regulator, its request to block access to Telegram on the grounds that the company had not complied with a 2017 order to provide decryption keys to the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). Since then, the actions taken by the Russian authorities to restrict access to Telegram have caused mass internet disruption, including:
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_icon icon_fontawesome=”fa fa-file-excel-o” color=”black” background_style=”rounded” size=”xl” align=”right”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”3/4″][vc_column_text]
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Background on restrictive internet laws
Over the past six years, Russia has adopted a huge raft of laws restricting freedom of expression and the right to privacy online. These include the creation in 2012 of a blacklist of internet websites, managed by Roskomnadzor, and the incremental extension of the grounds upon which websites can be blocked, including without a court order.
The 2016 so-called ‘Yarovaya Law’, justified on the grounds of “countering extremism”, requires all communications providers and internet operators to store metadata about their users’ communications activities, to disclose decryption keys at the security services’ request, and to use only encryption methods approved by the Russian government – in practical terms, to create a backdoor for Russia’s security agents to access internet users’ data, traffic, and communications.
In October 2017, a magistrate found Telegram guilty of an administrative offense for failing to provide decryption keys to the Russian authorities – which the company states it cannot do due to Telegram’s use of end-to-end encryption. The company was fined 800,000 rubles (approx. 11,000 EUR). Telegram lost an appeal against the administrative charge in March 2018, giving the Russian authorities formal grounds to block Telegram in Russia, under Article 15.4 of the Federal Law “On Information, Information Technologies and Information Protection”.
The Russian authorities’ latest move against Telegram demonstrates the serious implications for people’s freedom of expression and right to privacy online in Russia and worldwide:
Such attempts by the Russian authorities to control online communications and invade privacy go far beyond what can be considered necessary and proportionate to countering terrorism and violate international law.
We, the undersigned organisations, call on:
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text][/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”12″ style=”load-more” items_per_page=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1526459542623-9472d6b1-41e3-0″ taxonomies=”15″][/vc_column][/vc_row]
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Originally published on The Telegraph letters page
SIR – We wish to highlight concerns with “information sharing” provisions in the Digital Economy Bill.
The Bill puts government ministers in control of citizens’ personal data, a significant change in the relationship between citizen and state. It means that personal data provided to one part of government can be shared with other parts of government and private‑sector companies without citizens’ knowledge or consent.
Government should be strengthening, not weakening, the protection of sensitive information, particularly given the almost daily reports of hacks and leaks of personal data. Legal and technical safeguards need to be embedded within the Bill to ensure citizens’ trust. There must be clear guidance for officials, and mechanisms by which they and the organisations with whom they share information can be held to account.
The Government’s intention is to improve the wellbeing of citizens, and to prevent fraud. This makes it especially important that sensitive personal details, such as income or disability, cannot be misappropriated or misused – finding their way into the hands of payday-loan companies, for example. Information sharing could exacerbate the difficulties faced by the most vulnerable in society.
The Government should be an exemplar in ensuring the security and protection of citizens’ personal data. If the necessary technical and legal safeguards cannot be embedded in the current Bill and codes of practice, we respectfully urge the Government to remove its personal data sharing proposals in their entirety.
Dr Jerry Fishenden
Co-Chairman, Cabinet Office Privacy and Consumer Advisory Group (PCAG)
Chief Executive, Big Brother Watch
Director, Association of British Drivers
Director, English PEN
Chief Executive Officer, Index on Censorship
Dr Edgar Whitley
Co-Chairman, Cabinet Office PCAG and London School of Economics and Political Science
Director of Policy, BCS – The Chartered Institute for IT
Dr Gus Hosein
Executive Director, Privacy International and Member of Cabinet Office PCAG
Chief Executive Officer, Doteveryone
Chairman, Consumer Forum for Communications
Dr Kieron O’Hara
Associate Professor Electronics and Computer Science, University of Southampton.
Professor Angela Sasse
Head of Information Security Research, University College London and Member of Cabinet Office PCAG
Dr Judith Townend
Lecturer in Media and Information Law, University of Sussex
Dr Louise Bennett
Chairman, BCS Security Group and Member of Cabinet Office PCAG
Chief Executive Officer, CitizenMe
Director, The Freedom Association
Director and Founder, Projects by IF
Director, Open Rights Group
General Secretary, NO2ID and Member of Cabinet Office PCAG
Dr George Danezis
Professor of Security and Privacy Engineering, University College London and Member of Cabinet Office PCAG
Senior Lecturer in Law, Sheffield Hallam University
Visiting Professor, Queen Mary University
Director, Manifesto Club
Co-ordinator, Defend Digital Me
Dr Chris Pounder
Director, Amberhawk and Member of Cabinet Office PCAG
medConfidential and Member of Cabinet Office PCAG[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][/vc_column][/vc_row]