Tag: censorship

On 2 October President Ramaphosa signed the Film and Publications Amendment Bill into law.

In the area of printed and audio-visual content, the Films and Publications Amendment Act provides for the establishment, composition and appointment of members of an Enforcement Committee that will, among other tasks, to regulate online distribution of films and games, and to protect children from disturbing and harmful content.

The Bill is also known as the “Internet censorship bill” by its detractors.

This extends – to online distributors – the compliance obligations of the Films and Publications Act and the compliance and monitoring functions of the Film and Publication Board to online distributors.

The Amended Act also revises the functions of compliance officers regarding entering and inspection of premises and facilities in which the business of the sale, hire or exhibition of films or games is being conducted.

The law further regulates the classification of publications, films and games and allows for the accreditation of independent commercial online distributors by the Film and Publication Board.

Through the Board, the law will regulate the creation, possession, production and distribution of films, games and certain publications with a view to protecting children from disturbing and harmful content.

Controversy
Some controversial points around the bill deal with the following:

  • Revenge porn: any person who knowingly distributes private sexual photographs and films without prior consent and with intention to cause the said individual harm shall be guilty of an offence and liable upon conviction. This includes a possible fine not exceeding R150,000 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years and/or to both a fine and imprisonment not exceeding two years. Where the individual is identified or identifiable in said photographs and films, this punishment rises to a R300,000 fine and/or imprisonment not exceeding four years;
  • Hate speech: any person who knowingly distributes in any medium, including the Internet and social media, any film, game or publication which amounts to propaganda for war, incites imminent violence, or advocates hate speech, shall be guilty of an offence. This includes a possible fine not exceeding R150,000 and/or imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years; and
  • ISP requirements: If an internet access provider has knowledge that its services are being used for the hosting or distribution of child pornography, propaganda for war, incitement of imminent violence or advocating hatred based on an identifiable group characteristic it shall immediately remove this content, or be subject to a fine.

However, detractors say that the Bill is open to abuse, and may be used to curtail freedom of speech and increase censorship.

By Denis Balibouse for Wired

In 2010, Google made a moral calculus. The company had been censoring search results in China at the behest of the Communist government since launching there in 2006. But after a sophisticated phishing attack to gain access to the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists, Google decided to stop censoring results, even though it cost the company access to the lucrative Chinese market.

Across nearly a decade, Google’s decision to weigh social good over financial profit became part of Silicon Valley folklore, a handy anecdote that cast the tech industry as a democratizing force in the world. But to tech giants with an insatiable appetite for growth, China’s allure is just as legendary.

The country has more internet users—772 million—than any other country. Hundreds of millions more are not yet connected to the internet. The dizzying prospect of a billion new users reportedly prompted Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to offer President Xi Jinping the chance to name his first daughter in 2015. (Xi declined.) A more typical arrangement is the one made by LinkedIn, which agreed to play by local censorship rules.

Now, according internal documents obtained by The Intercept, Google itself may soon rebalance its moral accounts, just as lawmakers and consumers around the globe begin to reckon with industry’s potential to spread disinformation, sow social discord, and prop up authoritarian regimes. The Intercept said Google is in advanced stages of plans to launch a custom Android search app in China that will comply with the Communist Party’s harsh censorship policies on human rights, democracy, free speech, and religion.

“This an extremely disappointing move,” says Eva Galperin, director of cybersecurity for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Google’s willingness to censor its own results takes the onus away from the Chinese government. “They are essentially using Google as a propaganda tool and Google is letting themselves be used.”

A spokesperson for Google told WIRED, “We provide a number of mobile apps in China, such as Google Translate and Files Go, help Chinese developers, and have made significant investments in Chinese companies like JD.com. But we don’t comment on speculation about future plans.”

Google never fully exited China, even after its search service was blocked. The company has three offices and more than 700 employees in China. Last month, Google launched a so-called mini-game on China’s popular WeChat service.

The search project, code-named Dragonfly, began in spring 2017, but accelerated in December after a meeting between top Chinese officials and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, the Intercept says. Google has already demoed the app with Chinese government. If China approves the app, it could be launched within six to nine months.

In the documents, Google says it will automatically filter websites blocked by China’s so-called Great Firewall, The Intercept reports. Banned websites will be removed from the first page of search results, with a disclaimer saying “some results may have been removed due to statutory requirements.” Wikipedia and the BBC are cited as examples of sites that could be censored. The documents also say that Google’s search app will “blacklist sensitive queries,” by returning no results when people search for certain words or phrases. The restrictions would extend beyond text search. Features like image search, automatic spell check, and suggested search will also comply with the government’s blacklists.

Google is not the only company revving up its presence in China. Last August, Apple, which makes the vast majority of its products in China and reported sales of nearly $45 billion in Greater China in the year ended September 2017, removed virtual private network (VPN) apps from the App store. In 2016, the New York Times reported that Facebook was developing software for a censorship tool that would enable a third party to monitor popular stories and topics in China and then decide whether those posts should be visible to users.

“Facebook should also be ashamed of itself,” Galperin says. “It is one thing for the government to censor you, and another to say stand back and say, ‘Don’t trouble yourself with having to repress me, I’m just going to repress myself.’”

A 2008 Citizen Lab study said search engines from Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo all censored certain content in China, and “may be engaged in anticipatory blocking,” before the government even asked.

News about Google’s plans comes as tech workers have begun organizing against some of their employers’ business decisions. Meredith Whittaker, the founder of Google Open Research and co-director of AI Now, an institute focused on ethics and artificial intelligence at New York University, was involved in protests within Google to oppose a company contract with the Pentagon to apply artificial intelligence to drone footage in conflict zones. Wednesday, Whittaker tweeted that Google’s censorship could violate Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as Pichai’s recent guidelines on AI ethics.

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) could‚ in an “extreme” case‚ have its licence revoked.

That is according to the Independent Communication Authority of SA’s (Icasa’s) Rubben Mohlaloga when questioned by 702’s John Robbie about SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s reaction to its ruling against the broadcaster.

Motsoeneng had on Monday said “no one will tell us what to do” after Icasa made a decision that compels the SABC to reverse its ban on airing the destruction of property during protests.

Mohlaloga told 702 on Tuesday that various sanctions — from a caution to a fin‚ and‚ in extreme cases‚ a licence being “suspended or revoked” — were available to Icasa if the broadcaster did not comply with its rulings.

He says the SABC had seven days to comply or indicate that it would take the ruling on legal review.

The SABC’s Kaizer Kganyago later on Tuesday told the radio station that the SABC would take the decision to the courts‚ echoing Motsoeneng’s vow on Monday to approach the High Court or the Constitutional Court for relief.

“We are challenging that ruling … we are equal to the task‚” says Motsoeneng.

He had also said all newsrooms censored news in taking daily publishing decisions.

The fact that no good news was published showed that there was censorship in all news organisations‚ he says.

In May‚ Media Monitoring Africa‚ the SOS Support Public Broadcasting Coalition and the Freedom of Expression Institute lodged a complaint with Icasa’s complaints and compliance committee‚ challenging the validity of the SABC’s ban on protests.

In the aftermath of the ban‚ a number of senior journalists at the broadcaster face disciplinary action for questioning the decision.

The media briefing was disturbed by a protester who shouted “away with Hlaudi” and “history will judge you”. He was subsequently removed by security.

Source: www.bdlive.co.za

The wheels, rims and axles are flying off the SABC wagon as staff threaten a news blackout.

Senior SABC managers, including journalists, are seeking an urgent meeting with the public broadcaster’s board to discuss recent editorial decisions by chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

Failure by the board to meet staff would result in a news blackout, staff warned.

The proposed blackout follows yesterday’s resignation of the SABC’s acting CEO Jimi Matthews over what he called a “corrosive atmosphere”.

This morning more pressure will be exerted on Motsoeneng as the DA says it will picket outside SABC headquarters in Auckland Park demanding Motsoeneng vacate his office. The DA says Motsoeneng has proved he is not a fit and proper person to manage the SABC.

SABC journalists have told The Times that Hlaudi rules like a dictator and that anyone who opposes him is axed. The proposed blackout would see staff come to work but doing nothing to get the news out.

Another senior news producer said they would fight to regain control and prove to the public that they were not all “captured”.

“There are forces at play here and they are using Hlaudi to capture the SABC. We are going back to the old days and we will fight to the end to regain our editorial independence,” said a radio news producer, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of victimisation. SA National Editors’ Forum executive director Mathatha Tsedu said on possible blackouts: “Sanef has no view on the steps SABC staff would take. It’s a democratic country and they can do whatever they like.the staff are the ones in pain and in the middle of it and they know how to deal with it.”

Yesterday Matthews shocked the public when he said: “For months I have compromised values that I hold dear under the mistaken belief that I could be more effective inside the SABC than outside.What is happening at the SABC is wrong and I can no longer be a part of it.”

The “corrosive atmosphere” is created by, among other things, Motsoeneng’s order that no images of violent protests be shown on TV news broadcasts.

The blackouts are being contemplated after a letter was written by SABC executive producers Busisiwe Ntuli and Krivani Pillay and senior investigative journalist Jacques Steenkamp requesting a meeting with the board.

The letter is believed to be behind Matthews’ resignation. It follows the suspension of economics editor Thandeka Gqubule, Radio Sonder Grense executive editor Foeta Krige and journalist Suna Venter.

They were suspended for disagreeing with Motsoeneng’s orders to not report on anti-censorship protests at the SABC’s offices.

Matthews, head of the SABC’s group radio and TV editors and general managers, wrote to Motsoeneng on Sunday stating its newsrooms had become sources of “derision, despair and criticism”.

“The developments have heightened this sense of fear, lack of clarity about our journalists’ responsibility and low staff morale.”

The executive producers’ letter criticised the removal of the SABC’s newspaper slots and The Editors on SAfm’s AM Live, which they say amounts to censorship.

In their letter they say: “As journalists having to operationalise the policies of this public institution, we feel aggrieved that journalistic integrity continues to be compromised. We wish to register our deep concern for our colleagues who have been suspended for expressing their right to freedom of expression by simply debating and assessing the newsworthiness of events as expected.”

They say the latest pronouncements “fundamentally erode the right of the public to know the whole story about developments in their communities.

“These pronouncements effectively render our newsrooms incapable of providing compelling audiovisual content that educates and informs the public and disseminates balanced and accurate information.”

Humphrey Maxegwana, parliamentary communications portfolio committee chairman, said the latest developments were alarming.

“When parliament’s recess ends we will meet to discuss summoning the SABC to explain exactly what is going on.”

William Bird, Media Monitoring Africa director, said a blackout was an extreme but effective tactic.

“These are desperate times at the SABC. Journalists are being suspended for legitimate dissent.”

Sekoetlane Phamodi, national co-ordinator of the SOS Support Public Broadcasting Coalition, welcomed the proposed blackouts.

“It’s time the SABC’s rank and file stand up and show the broadcaster’s board and parliament, which is derelict in its duties to ensure stability within the SABC, that the situation of decay cannot be tolerated.

“The SABC belongs to South Africans. We have a right to know what is going on.”

Hannes du Buisson, Broadcasting Electronic Media And Allied Workers Union president, said: “We support any action as long as it is properly managed and complies with labour legislation.”

By Graeme Hosken and Dominic Mahlangu for www.rdm.co.za

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