Church of England refuses to allow foreign language on a gravestone, calling it a "political statement"

Margaret Keane was born in Westmeath, in the Republic of Ireland, and later moved to Coventry in the United Kingdom, where her and her husband raised six children. Throughout her life, Margaret remained active in the Gaelic Athletic Association, and after she passed away in 2018 at the age 73, her family wanted a gravestone that paid tribute to her proud Irish heritage.

Margaret belonged to the Church of England, and was to be buried at St. Giles Church in Exhall. But her family received some pushback when they proposed a plot with a Celtic cross, which the diocesan advisory committee denied for being too large. The committee suggested that the family simply add an inscription of a Celtic cross to the headstone.

The Keane family agreed to the compromise. But the Church of England pushed back again when they saw the planned inscription on the cross: "In ár gcroíthe go deo," which means, "In our hearts forever" in the Irish language. This didn't seem particularly radical, especially as there are already Welsh inscriptions in the same cemetery. But once again, the diocesan advisory committee denied the family's headstone proposal. "Given the passions and feelings connected with the use of Irish Gaelic," said a Church judge who is also a local government judge, "There is a sad risk that the phrase would be regarded as some form of slogan or that its inclusion without translation would of itself be seen as a political statement."

After yet another appeal, the judge agreed to allow the Irish words only if they're accompanied by an English translation. Read the rest

Bowing to China, Zoom deactivated accounts of US-based activists

Zoom performs work of China internet censors -- against users in the U.S.

China censors Weibo for 'interfering with online communication orders, disseminating illegal information'

Starting on Wednesday afternoon, the trending list on the popular Chinese social media app Weibo will be banned for one week, the Cyberspace Administration of Beijing said, for “interfering with online communication orders, disseminating illegal information, and other problems” Read the rest

Read the text of Trump's draft Executive Order about Social Media

After Trump threw a tantrum over Twitter doing the bare-minimum to fact-check his deliberately misleading tweets, Trump announced plans to sign an Executive Order that forces social media to "protect" "free speech." Because government-approved top-down authoritarian control of private companies is apparently now a central tenet of the Republican Party.

Content Moderation expert Kate Klonick shared a draft of the order.

You can read the full document here, which hinges on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (as well as the continued wolf-crying fantasy of "conservative censorship"). If you want the sparknotes, Vice has a pretty comprehensive breakdown:

As far as legislation goes, the first subsection of 230 is concise and powerful: "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."

In the order, Trump also makes the argument that social media companies' actions should not "infringe on protected speech," which would be a massive change from Section 230 as it's currently worded, which makes an explicit carve-out for restricting protected speech. This will, unequivocally, change the internet as a whole and make it worse.

Read the rest

Florida's COVID-19 'dashboard' official: I was removed for refusing to 'manually change data'

Somehow, not a surprise. Read the rest

French companies will have one hour to remove content at police demand

A law passed today in France obliges internet platforms to remove content within an hour or face huge fines, reports the BBC. The law concerns content related to terrorism or child sexual abuse, as determined by police.

There are also fears that such tech could be used against groups such as protesters.

"Since 2015, we already had such a law that allowed the police to ask for the removal of some content if they deemed it to be terrorist... this has been used multiple times in France to censor political content," the spokesman said.

"Giving the police such a power, without any control... is obviously for us an infringement on the freedom of speech."

Even large companies able to staff moderation crews 24/7 will have no effective window to review requests, let alone challenge them. Indeed, the only practical way to obey the laws will be to make the process as automatic as possible, which is surely the point.

Fines are up to 4% of global turnover, which (for example) would work out to about 2.8bn for Facebook. Read the rest

Zoom says it's using artificial intelligence to block nudity

On his Pluralistic blog, Cory Doctorow reports that the Zoom teleconferencing system purportedly uses artificial intelligence to detect naked people to block the video. He says "I think that Zoom is probably bullshitting about using machine learning to catch nudity." That makes sense, because how can you detect the content of a video stream if, as Zoom promises, the signal is encrypted end-to-end? Cory also looks at the reasons why pornography always seems to be one of the early use cases in any new technology:

The thing is, when a new communications technology comes along, the people who have the most incentive to figure out how to use it are the people for whom the existing technology channels are not working.

...

It's also why everyone else whose communications are disfavored, surveilled or blocked adopt technology.

It's what political radicals, kids, religious extremists, terrorists, conspiracists, and criminals all have in common: using the established communications channels is expensive for them, so it's worth expending the effort to master the new ones.

Read the rest

A comprehensive infographic mapping censorship in KidzBop songs

Kidz Bop is a music brand that makes "kid-friendly versions of today’s biggest pop music hits." Think Raffi performing "Despacito."

As such, they tend to change the lyrics around, to keep things OK for the kids. The Pudding did a deep-dive into the linguistic data around Kidz Bop and their censorship choices, and turned their findings into a comprehensive and curious set of infographics:

Kidz Bop songs exist in a weird parallel universe, one where Lizzo’s famous line “I just took a DNA test, turns out I'm 100% that bitch” turns into “I just took a DNA test, turns out I'm 100% that kid.”

Sure, you expect profanity to be censored, but some of the swaps are giggle-inducing gems and travesties. So, we wanted to see if we could find patterns in the black-barred words — R.I.P. to our Spotify account algorithms. (See the “bad word” methodology).

Can you find what Kidz Bop censored?

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🎵 NEW PROJECT! 🎵 This week we published a piece with contributor Sara Stoudt that takes a look at censorship in Kidz Bop – the parallel universe of "kid friendly" adaptations of hits by artists like Lizzo and Taylor Swift. Swipe through to see what types of "bad words" get the black bar treatment and be sure to check out the LINK IN BIO to take our censorship quiz and explore all the giggle-inducing and cringe-worthy word swaps. A note to our readers: At The Pudding, we are not currently working on anything coronavirus-related.

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A new play lets formerly incarcerated people tell their stories. Meanwhile, prisons are still banning books.

In January of 2018, I was hired by the Civic Ensemble of Ithaca, New York to take part in a fascinating playwriting opportunity. The company had started a ReEntry Theatre program in 2015, teaming with state social services to implement a theatre education curriculum to help people dealing with incarceration and substance abuse rehabilitation to transition back into society. In the past, the program participants had written their own monologues and brief scenes, along with learning some improv exercises. But they brought me in to work with those program participants, and all the raw material they'd produce, and turn that into a full-length play—a singular, cohesive vision that was lightly fictionalized but drawn directly from the participants' real experiences dealing with prison and addiction.

The result, Streets Like This, had its world premiere in May of 2018. But now the company is re-mounting it at the Cherry Artspace (also in Ithaca) from March 12-22, 2020.

Working on this play was a very cool experience. The program participants were all people who had seen a lot of shit, but also had some incredibly deep empathy but for what they and others like them had gone through. Many of them possessed an intuitive understanding of the complex systemic issues that drove them into the desperation — the violence, drugs, sex work, and petty crime — that landed them in prison in the first place. And having been through prison — sometimes more than once — they also had a better understanding of the ways that the system is set up to fail people just like them. Read the rest

National Archive to let ICE destroy documents

We may never know the truth about the border crisis, writes Matthew Connelly, because the National Archives is letting millions of documents be destroyed.

President Trump has long made it a practice to tear up his papers and throw them away. It is a clear violation of the Presidential Records Act, which is supposed to prevent another Watergate-style cover-up. When the National Archives sent staff members to tape these records together, the White House fired them.

In 2017, a normally routine document released by the archives, a records retention schedule, revealed that archivists had agreed that officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement could delete or destroy documents detailing the sexual abuse and death of undocumented immigrants. Tens of thousands of people posted critical comments, and dozens of senators and representatives objected. The National Archives made some changes to the plan, but last month it announced that ICE could go ahead and start destroying records from Mr. Trump’s first year, including detainees’ complaints about civil rights violations and shoddy medical care.

These documents include reports of detainee deaths and sexual abuse.

"Wherever books burn, human beings will also burn." – Heinrich Heine Read the rest

Russian comedian who dissed Putin flees country

"I didn't plan to be persecuted simply for joking," he said.

Brazil's authoritarians charge Glenn Greenwald with cybercrime for publishing leaks that revealed corruption at the highest levels

Last June Glenn Greenwald and The Intercept published and reported on a massive trove of explosive leaks that revealed that top prosecutors and the judge who eventually became the justice minister of Brazil conspired to rig the corruption trial of the beloved and incredibly popular leader Lula, sending him to prison as part of their plan to put the murderous, homophobic authoritarian Jair Bolsonaro in his place. Read the rest

Bill from Missouri's Rep Ben Baker threatens librarians with prison sentences for allowing minors to read books banned by town committees

Under Missouri House Bill 2044 -- the "Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act" -- each town will elect a committee of five local people (librarians are not permitted to serve) who will take local submission for books to ban. If they choose to ban a book, any librarian who allows a minor to check out or read that book will face up to a year in prison, and their libraries will be de-funded. Read the rest

Wikipedia ban lifted by Turkey after court rules 2-year block 'violates freedom of expression'

Turkey's ban on Wikipedia has been lifted, after today's official publication of a Constitutional Court ruling that the more than two-year block is a violation of freedom of expression. Read the rest

Youtube copyright trolls Adrev claim to own a homemade MIDI rendition of 1899's Flight of the Bumblebee

Chris Knight recorded a video of the bees in his backyard and wanted to accompany it with a rendition of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's 1899 composition "The Flight of the Bumblebee." Read the rest

The lawyer who caught UNC giving $2.5m to white nationalists orders the white nationalists to create a $2.5m fund for Black students or face a lawsuit

T Greg Doucette is the lawyer who put the pieces together on the University of North Carolina's $2.5m handout to the white nationalist group the Sons of Confederate Veterans, then found and published a smoking gun in the form of a "victory letter" written by the SOCV's "commander" Kevin Stone, which Stone and the SOCV used a fraudulent DMCA notice to censor. Read the rest

UK's oldest ISP blames DoS attack on attempt to suppress human rights report about West Papua (read it now!)

Greennet (previously) is the oldest ISP in the UK, tracing its origins back to Fidonet, where it was a hub for radical progressive political movements, which has attracted retaliations (in the form of DDoS attacks by repressive states) and surveillance (Greennet was one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against GCHQ over surveillance activities that ended with the spy agency "admitting clandestine hacking activities"). Read the rest

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