Platform responsibility? Get the backstory - check my book The Closing of the Net - only £15.99!

UK intelligence services have been taking advantage of gaps in the international rules to conduct bulk interception of Internet traffic.  That practice came under scrutiny in the European Court of Human Rights, in a ruling that was released this week.

 The case of Big Brother Watch and Others v the United Kingdom was brought to the Court by human rights activist groups who were concerned about the mass online surveillance being carried out by UK intelligence services. It has resulted in a ruling that lays out essential ground rules for protecting privacy.  

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The European Parliament has voted to ratify the EU-UK Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA). It did so  despite a litany of reservations. But why?

Today, the European Parliament gave its consent to the so-called Brexit deal, formally known as the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA). There was an overwhelming majority of 660 in favour, 5 against, and 32 abstentions. The agreement now only needs to be adopted by the European Council, when it will formally enter into force.

It entailed  a simple yes/no vote under the Consent procedure, but as with all things Brexit, it wasn’t really that simple.

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I'm delighted to introduce my new working paper 'Algorithms patrolling content: where's the harm?An empirical examination of Facebook shadow bans and their impact on users.

  READ THE FULL ABSTRACT & DOWNLOAD  it via SSRN.

The paper reveals how the Facebook shadow ban works by blocking dissemination of content in News Feed. This is Facebook’s  recommender system that curates content for users, and is also the name of the algorithm 

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A disproportionate restriction on freedom of expression – Fails to meet the legality principle – Gap between publicly available information and internal rules. 

These are the conclusions of  the Facebook Oversight Board in one of its first decisions on content removal by the platform. Facebook's action was assessed against human rights standards. The decision paves the way for users whose content is unfairly targeted by enforcement actions to argue for a rights-based approach. Yet it  also highlights some of the difficulties of automated content moderation. It contains much that is to be welcomed, although ultimately, the Board will have demonstrate that it has real teeth. 

I explore the rationale, drawing on my own research where I encountered a similar post to the one in this case.  

The case concerned content related to

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Will  border safety be  at risk if the UK loses access to a vital EU database of wanted persons and police alerts?  

Parliamentary Committees  heard last week that instantaneous border security checks via the vital Schengen Information System (SIS II) database are likely to cease from 1 January. Evidence given to Parliamentary committees reveals a lack of preparedness and no alternative system on the same  scale. Is losing access inevitable or is it a political decision? 

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Theresa May’s  exclamation of  ‘what?’  as  Michael Gove effectively dismissed the idea of an EU security co-operation agreement,  was a moment of truth.

The former Prime Minister has expressed her concern that the government is ignoring security issues in its hardened drive to leave the EU without any agreement – and indeed, without honouring the Political Declaration that she and her team negotiated. Official communications from the government, fail to mention security, including a letter from

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 As  talks on a UK-EU post-Brexit trade deal enter their tense final stages, a vital agreement on  security co-operation is hanging in the balance. A bespoke proposal has been tabled by the EU. It would facilitate ongoing access to cross-border data that police and intelligence services need. If it cannot be agreed, there are serious risks for law enforcement and individual privacy.  A reluctance on the part of the UK government to commit to future support for the European Convention on Human Rights  puts it  in jeopardy.  

The security co-operation agreement is needed so that UK law enforcement

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OneWeb satellite in orbit

Last week, the Business,  Energy and Industrial Strategy  (BEIS) Select Committee called in satellite industry experts to probe the government’s £400m purchase of a share in the OneWeb low earth orbit (LEO) system and its potential in comparison to what we have lost in the European Galileo system. Some commentators describe it as a ‘gamble’ and space industry experts politely say it is ‘risky’. Is this  a good use of public money? 

The BEIS Committee Chair, Darren Jones, Labour MP for Bristol North West,  established fairly quickly  that One Web

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New rules incompatible with the AI-driven supply chain systems that support our modern life will cause an industrial splutter. Lorry parks at the border are merely a symptom of systemic dysfunction. Expect price rises and  goods shortages. Strawberries and salads may fall off the menu. Prompt action could alleviate the situation, but ignoring it will result in long term damage.

When the UK finally quits the Single Market  on 1 January,  rule changes will come into effect for businesses.  With or without a ‘deal’, new trade barriers will be erected.  Customs declarations will be needed for goods going in or out of the country, traders will have to demonstrate compliance with standards and ‘rules of origin’,  and depending on the outcome of the negotiations with the EU, a tariff payment will be required.  The latest UK -EU discussions about 'cabotage'  - rules for pick up and drop off in the EU27-  underscore how deep the changes will run. In all likelihood, it will lead to  uncertainties of supply, price hikes and

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As policy-makers on both sides of the Atlantic seek to curb the power of the ‘big tech’ leviathans, is anti-trust the best tool to address speech online?

When the four titans of tech testified at a recent hearing in the US Congress, it was meant to be about anti-trust and market abuses. The technology companies were indeed put on the defensive about their monopolistic practices,  but some of the most difficult exchanges were about content and censorship. It raises the issue about their power over  speech, which presents a far more complex question for lawmakers than

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What does the Schrems case mean for UK post-Brexit data flows? At the heart of the Schrems case is a conflict of laws - a conflict between EU  privacy  law and US surveillance law.  After 31 December, the question about surveillance law turns around to point at the UK.  Whichever way one looks at it, deal or no deal with the EU, UK surveillance law will be the determining factor. 

Overnight on 31 December 2020, the rules governing data flows from the UK to other countries will change. As the UK pulls out of the pan-European GDPR regime, it simultaneously rips

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The UK is ‘clearly a target for Russia’s disinformation campaigns’. Protecting our democratic  discourse from a hostile state is the role of the intelligence agencies. Integral to that process are the social media platforms, who are private actors.  What role should platforms have in a national security context? The Russia report, released on 21 July, exposes some of the issues.

The Russia report* confirms that the UK is a target for online political interference  by the Russian State (para 31), but it exposes a gaping hole in the ability of the UK authorities to tackle the problem.  It paints a worrying picture of the intelligence agencies abrogating their responsibility to  protect the discourse and processes of the UK against the activities of foreign powers. Despite the known interference on social media, including with the 2016 referendum, there seems to be 

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In the face of over 50,000*coronavirus-related deaths in the UK alone - potentially as high as 60,000* - why should we care about digital rights?

Beside the grave risks to life posed by Covid-19, your rights in using Internet services may seem like a lower priority.  However, as lockdown measures make entire societies digitally-dependent, it has never been more important to  safeguard people’s activities online.

The coronavirus public health emergency  - and specifically the lockdown measures – changed the ‘normal’ way of life overnight as entire societies were obliged to stay at home. These measures created an environment where digital systems became the arteries of social and economic life for entire populations.  The situation created a universal dependence on digital communications that has arguably not been the case previously. While lockdown is  easing, the digital dependence is likely to remain high.

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Will Germany save us from the upload filter?

Tomorrow – Monday 15th April – the EU  Copyright Directive goes to the Council of Ministers. It has been anticipated that this would be the final stage of its legislative journey and that it would be rubber-stamped into law.  However, the controversy over the upload filter  (Article 17 – ex-13) has not abated and six countries have already announced that they cannot vote in favour. That means there is  a blocking minority, but it is not quite sufficient yet to stop the Directive from getting into law.  Crucially, the position of the German government hangs in the balance.

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The Closing of the Net   (Polity Press 2016)


"takes the pulse of the open web" Journal of IP Law & Practice


PAPERBACK & KINDLE FROM £15.99

 

If the open Internet is an essential precondition for democracy,  should governments or corporations be allowed to restrict it? This is the question at the heart of my book ‘The Closing of the Net’ and it discusses the backdrop to the political controversies of today around such issues as fake news,  terrorism content online,  and mis-use of data – controversies that result in calls for ‘responsibility’ by online companies. The book argues that any regulation of these companies must enshrine public interest criteria, which must balance the competing rights at stake.

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panel.at.cdt.content.responsibilities.september2016.crop2.jpg

 

States v the 'Net? 

Read The Closing of the Net, by me, Monica Horten.

"original and valuable"  Times higher Education

" essential read for anyone interested in understanding the forces at play behind the web." ITSecurity.co.uk

Find out more about the book here  The Closing of the Net

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FROM £15.99

Copyright Enforcement Enigma launch, March 2012

In 2012, I presented my PhD research in the European Parliament.

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Iptegrity.com is the website of Dr Monica Horten. She is a policy analyst specialising in Internet governance & European policy, including platform accountability. She is a published author & Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics & Political Science. She served as an independent expert on the Council of Europe Committee on  Internet Freedom. She has worked on CoE, EU and UNDP funded projects in eastern Europe and the Caucasus. In a voluntary capacity, she has led UK citizen delegations to the European Parliament. She was shortlisted for The Guardian Open Internet Poll 2012.

Iptegrity  offers expert insights into Internet policy (and related issues on Brexit). Iptegrity has a core readership in the Brussels policy community, and has been cited in the media. Please acknowledge Iptegrity when you cite or link.  For more, see IP politics with integrity

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