Displaying items by tag: Legislation

Facebook accused of breaking law in Vietnam

Written on Thursday, 10 January 2019 13:08

Vietnam has accused Facebook of breaching a new cybersecurity law by failing to take down anti-government content from its pages and advertising illegal products such as weapons and counterfeit goods.

The law – which came into place on January 1st - requires internet companies to remove "toxic content" and hand over user data when requested by authorities.

A report broadcast on Vietnam Television said that the Ministry of Information and Communications had sent several letters and emails to the company requesting the removals of pages calling for anti-government activities, but that the social media giant had delayed and failed to remove the pages from its site 

Vietnam also accused the company of hosting advertisements for illegal products such as counterfeit money, fake goods, weapons and fireworks.

Facebook claim that the information did not violate community standards, and remains transparent about the content restrictions they make pursuant with local law.

"We have a clear process for governments to report illegal content to us, and we review all these requests against our terms of service and local law," a spokeswoman from Facebook said.

The consequences for violating the law are expected to be laid out in a decree which has yet to be made public and Facebook are the first reprimand since the controversial bill came into place days ago.

Vietnam has said the bill is designed to improve cybersecurity in the country, but has drawn widespread criticism from the US, the EU and web freedom groups. Critics have said the new legislation is a means to control online expression – similar to China’s strict censorship laws.  

As all independent press and public protests are banned, social media is a crucial platform for activists in communist Vietnam, with over 53 million Facebook user profiles. However, reports in recent months suggest that Facebook posts have disappeared and accounts been blocked.

Published in Apps

A group which represents a number of major US technology firms has appealed to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to retract its proposed plans to reverse a landmark decision taken in 2015 which prohibited internet service providers from blocking or slowing consumer access to online content.

The Internet Association which represents companies such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, Netflix and Microsoft has filed a complaint to the FCC in relation to the reversal on the decision made in 2015. It cited that the dismantling of the established net neutrality rules would create significant uncertainty in the market and disrupt a careful balance that has led to the current circle of innovation in the broadband ecosystem.

In May, Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai expressed his opposition to the order implemented by the Obama administration in 2015. The FCC voted 2-1 to advance the chairman’s plans to reverse the order which would reclassify internet service providers as if they were utilities. Pai has previously enquired if the FCC has authority or should keep its rules barring internet companies from blocking, throttling or giving ‘fast lanes’ to some websites, known as ‘paid prioritization’.

The FCC chairman has claimed that the order by the Obama administration is unnecessary and harms jobs and investment, and whilst he hasn’t committee to retaining any rules, he has stated that he would prefer an ‘open internet’. However, representatives on the Internet Association said that there is no reliable evidence whatsoever to reinforce Pai’s claim that ‘provider investment’ had fallen.

It has been disclosed that over 8.3m public comments have been filed on the proposal, and Pai will face questions at a US Senate hearing later this week. US telecommunications entities such as AT&T, Verizon Communications and Comcast Corp all vehemently opposed the order in 2015, saying that the order discouraged investment and innovation.

Telecommunication providers have insisted that they strongly support open internet rules and will not block or throttle legal website without legal requirements. However, they have conceded that ‘paid prioritization’ makes sense at times, citing self-driving cars and healthcare information. Internet firms say opening the door to prioritization could enable providers to "destroy the open nature of the internet that allows new or smaller streaming video providers to compete with larger or better-funded edge providers."

Internet providers have expressed their desire to see Congress resolve the long-running dispute over net neutrality and open internet protections. The Internet Association said it was open to alternative legal bases for the rules, either via legislative action codifying the existing net neutrality rules or via sound legal theories offered by the commission.

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The Austrian government is set to introduce controversial legislation which would grant police authorities in the country the ability to access encrypted messaging services such as WhatsApp and Skype. The government has claimed that the legislation has been drafted in an effort to ‘crackdown’ on criminals who are increasingly avoiding the use of communication via telephone.

Austria’s Justice Ministry said that government officials has consulted with political, technology, civil rights and legal experts to review its draft legislation - that would ultimately enable authorities to access and monitor real-time conversations on messaging service application.

However, it has transpired that such surveillance would only be permitted with a court order into investigations in relation to potential terrorist activities, or other crimes punishable by at least five years imprisonment. Other EU countries such as France, Italy, Poland and Spain has adopted similar policy changes and introduced new laws.

It remains unclear how Austria would conduct such a surveillance program, although it has been suggested that one approach would involve the installation of software on the computers and mobile devices of suspects using messaging tools with end-to-end encryption. That would prevent the government from accessing information by means of traditional, remote eavesdropping techniques.

It’s been further disclosed that such tools are sold by a handful of Austrian firms who specialize in selling off the shelf surveillance to governments. "Law enforcement and intelligence agencies are gravitating toward this type of spyware to overcome the challenge of end-to-end encryption," said Ronald Deibert, director of the Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs in Toronto.

Deibert’s institute investigates the abuse of such surveillance tools, and he stressed the importance for governments to make sure they have proper oversight and public accountability when granting police authorities the right to use these particular surveillance technologies. It has been reported that the Austrian Judicial system has already sentenced several individuals to prison for their links to terrorist organizations. Prosecutions were made in a number of cases due to the influence of data from devices that had been seized by law enforcement officials. The government plans to submit the bill to parliament after an Aug. 21 deadline for submission of opinions.

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Social networking giant Facebook has been ordered by an Austrian court that it must control the issue of ‘trolling’ on its platform following a case which was brought forward by a political party in the country. Austria’s Green party where outraged at the vitriol directed at its leader – and demanded that Facebook take responsibility for the platform being used to spread hate. However, the ruling is now set to have international ramifications as the ruling said that ‘hate postings’ must be deleted all across the social network platform – and not just in Austria.

The court comes on the back of a movement by legislators currently attempting to find ways of forcing companies such as Facebook, Google, Twitter and others to remove hate speech or incitement to violence in a much more rapid way. Germany’s cabinet recently approved an initiative to fine social networks up to €50m if they fail to react quickly enough to such negative postings posted online – and the European Union is considering new EU-wide rules.

Facebook’s legal representatives in Vienna have thus far declined to comment on the ruling by the Austrian court which was announced publicly the Green party, which was subsequently confirmed by a court spokesman. The Viennese appeals court ruled that Facebook must remove the hate postings which have been aimed at Eva Glawischnig, and said that merely removing them in Austria without them being deleted abroad would not suffice.

The court claimed that Facebook has the capabilities available to them to automate this process. It did concede that the social media colossus could not be expected to trawl through content to find posts that are similar, rather than identical to posts already identified as hate speech. The Greens have indicated that they intend to have the ruling strengthened at Austria’s highest court. One of their demands is to identify holders of bogus accounts. In addition to this, the political party has also requested that Facebook pay damages, which would make it easier for individuals in similar cases to take the financial risk of taking legal action.

"Facebook must put up with the accusation that it is the world's biggest platform for hate and that it is doing nothing against this," said Green parliamentarian Dieter Brosz. Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg has said hate speech has no place on the platform and the company has published a policy paper on how it wants to work against false news.

Published in Apps

Germany are proposing to adopt new legislation that would hold major social media companies liable for provocative and inflammatory content that breaks German law. The government plan to impose heavy fines on companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter and others which fail to police, control and delete hate speech from its platforms. 

Angela Merkel’s coalition government devised the idea in an attempt to alleviate the growing problem of hate speech and fake news stories polluting social media channel in the country. Her cabinet believes companies should set-up clear channels for registering complaints -make the details of those complaints public, and hire legally qualified ombudsmen to carry out deletions.

Online platforms that fail to meet such legal requirements could be hit with fines calculated on the basis of their global annual turnover, or face on-the-spot fines of up to €500,000 if they neglect to remove posts in breach of German hate speech law within 24 hours.

Social media and the power of it is under the microscope following the seismic political shift that occurred in both the US and UK this year. Populist narratives, conspiracy theories and xenophobic rhetoric were at the forefront of the Brexit campaign in the UK, and then the shock election of Donald Trump in the USA. Social media was a powerful tool used during both campaigns. Those results have now left many people feeling nervous ahead of elections in Germany and France next year.

Germany already has in place some of the toughest laws in Europe in relation to hate speech, which includes prison sentences for Holocaust denial. A taskforce regarding hate speech was set-up by German Justice Minister Heiko Maas last year.

He met representatives from Google, Facebook and Twitter, and the meeting was ultimately aimed at deleting illegal postings within 24 hours. However, a government report into the deletion of illegal postings have unearthed some unsatisfactory results.

It signalled clearly that tech companies are struggling to adapt adequately to the breaches of law on their platforms. Facebook only deleted 46%, YouTube just 10% and incredibly Twitter only deleted 1% of illegal content which was flagged by users.

Mass said: “We are already looking in detail at how we can make providers of online platforms criminally liable for undeleted content that breaks German law. Of course, if other measures don’t work we also need to think about fines. That would be a strong incentive for quick action. We urgently need more transparency.  Companies that make money with their social networks have social obligations – it cannot be in any company’s interest that their platform is used to commit crimes.

It will be interesting to see how Facebook and other leading tech firms react to the proposed legislation and new laws if passed, and the legality of collecting fines. Facebook is a US based company and it’s not clear whether or not Germany would have any recourse in collecting fines. The murky world of social media has just got murkier.

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