This month we have been campaigning on the Digital Economy Bill, giving evidence to the UK government about our concerns, and creating a series of videos explaining what needs to change in the Bill. We have also been continuing to challenge the Investigatory Powers Bill in the House of Lords. Thank you for helping to inform our work and carrying out our campaigns to ensure that our rights to privacy and free speech online are protected.
The new Digital Economy Bill has three worrying proposals.
Age verification and privacy threats
The Bill would compel pornography websites to verify the age of their users, without saying how it will guarantee their privacy and anonymity. The proposals are so bad that we are warning that they could lead to 'Ashley Madison' style data leaks.
There are serious free expression concerns as well. Small independent porn companies are more likely to be affected by the proposals. Adults may also be deterred from accessing pornography because they are worried that they are being tracked.
ORG's Executive Director Jim Killock criticised the lack of privacy safeguards when giving evidence to the Bill Committee. Since, Labour's Louise Haigh has tabled an amendment, which we support, to create duties to regulate the privacy and security of the system.
However, some MPs want to add website blocking of completely legal content, to reinforce the age verification system, which they fear won't work on its own. This could lead to the censorship of thousands of websites.
Data sharing without privacy safeguards
These proposals to make it easier for government departments to share data with one another without sufficient safeguards. These proposals are in such terrible shape that even the government is having to table amendments to patch them up.
We provided very detailed analysis of what needs to be fixed - and MPs seem to be listening.
Ten year prison sentence for online copyright infringement
These sentences apply to anyone who fails to pay a licence fee or creates a "risk of loss". Unfortunately, that is most kinds of ordinary copyright infringement, such as file sharing. This will aid copyright trolls to send threatening letters. Labour's Kevin Brennan explained our concerns to the Bill Committee.
Find out more about the DE Bill on the campaign hub on our website. You can also read the written evidence we submitted to the committee scrutinising the Bill.
The IP Bill has been debated by the House of Lords and despite the best efforts of ORG and the Don't Spy on Us coalition, the Labour Lords failed to amend the IP Bill and didn't support the Lib Dems' proposals. As ORG's Executive Director, Jim Killock told the Guardian, “Labour did not table any serious amendments to this draconian legislation in the House of Lords. Labour is simply failing to hold the government to account.”
The new shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott has also called the Bill “draconian” and we will work to persuade Labour MPs to say no to the Bill when it goes back to the House of Commons for a final vote. After that our next step will be to look at how the Bill can be challenged through the courts. We are still waiting for the Court of Justice of the European Union's Judgment on the legality of the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA). ORG intervened in this case, which will have implications for the IP Bill and for any future legal action that ORG might take.
We're looking for people to help us find and report websites that are incorrectly blocked by web filters. It's been two years, since we launched Blocked, a tool that let's you check whether any website is censored by filters. Since then, we've heard from bloggers, charities and businesses who have been baffled to find that their sites have been blocked. Despite the serious problem with overblocking, we believe that the Government is going to legislate this autumn to allow companies to switch on filters by default after a new EU regulation will make this illegal.
We're planning to oppose this and we want to use evidence of overblocking to support our case. We've adapted the Blocked tool so we can search for blocked sites by category. We will launch this properly next month but if you would like to help us, please get in touch.
ORG has joined the Against Borders for Children coalition, which is calling for the Department for Education to end its policy of collecting country of birth and nationality information from children in England. This information is stored in the National Pupil Database (NPD), which can be accessed by journalists, government departments and other organisations.
A Freedom of Information request by defenddigitalme showed that the Home Office accessed the NPD 18 times between April 2012 and July 2016 for immigration enforcement purposes. We don't believe that schools should gather information about children to be used against their families.
If you are a parent, there's more information here about what you can do to protect your child's data. The House of Lords will vote on the new country of birth and nationality data collection next Monday, October 31 and there's more information here about how you can get involved.
ORG Birmingham event round up
Read Francis Clark's (Local Organiser for ORG Birmingham) #SaveOurSources event round up to find out about how the Snoopers Charter threatens press freedoms.
New ORG Cardiff Local Organiser
Rob Lewis has recently become the new Local Organiser for ORG Cardiff! Rob is a journalist, author and a political activist. He is also studying for a law degree, with a personal focus on Article 8 of the ECHR.
This month we welcomed Julie Dahle, our new campaigns intern. Julie is a third year politics and international relations student. Previously, she had been involved in politics and union work in Norway, involving campaigning and organising.
ORG Cambridge: Digital rights meet up
Tuesday 1st November, 7pm - 9pm
Join ORG Cambridge for the monthly meetup to discuss the current state of digital rights, what we've done in the past month and what we are planning to do in the upcoming month.
The Castle Inn,
38 Castle Street,
ORG London: Digital Dystopias: Orwell's 1984 and the Internet Age
Monday 7th November, 7pm - 9pm
Join ORG London for a session on surveillance and totalitarianism in literature, and how the nightmarish world of George Orwell's '1984' can still be seen as relevant for the digital age.
133-135 Bethnal Green Road,
ORG Manchester: Festival of Social Science: digital activism
Friday 11th November, 10am - 4pm
Join ORG Manchester for a great opportunity to discover how new technologies are changing our communities. With talks from local campaign groups, technologists and academics.
36-40 Edge Street,
ORG North East: CryptoParty: how to protect yourself online
Saturday 12th November, 1:30pm - 3:30pm
CryptoParties are a great way for anyone to learn how to install and use tools to help secure their online communications. Join ORG North East to learn why we need to use these tools.
Newcastle City Library,
Charles Avison Building,
33 New Bridge Street West, Newcastle upon Tyne,
We’d like to thank our latest Corporate Sponsor Webarchitects, for their generous support.