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UK Porn Ban Will Take Effect in July

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  • The UK announced on Wednesday that it will implement a new law effectively banning people from viewing online pornography unless they have explicitly proven they are 18 or older.
  • The law, which is set to go into effect July 15, will require pornography providers to implement a “rigorous” age-verification process, and punish websites that fail to comply by withdrawing payment services or blocking the websites entirely from being viewed in the UK.
  • While the government has promised data security and privacy protections, opponents of the law have said it could lead to the creation of a database of UK porn viewers that could be susceptible to scammers stealing identification documents or leaks exposing other private information.

UK to Ban Porn

A new law in the UK set to go into effect in July will ban people from accessing online porn without first verifying that they are over 18.

The government officials confirmed Wednesday that the UK will become the first country in the world to implement a “rigorous” age-verification process for online pornography. The law will come into force on July 15.

Once the law goes into effect, internet pornography websites will be required to check that all users are at least 18-years-old. Websites that do not comply with the new law will risk having their sites blocked for all UK users or risk having their payment services withdrawn.

“Adult content is currently far too easy for children to access online,” said Margot James, the Minister for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. “We’ve taken the time to balance privacy concerns with the need to protect children from inappropriate content.”

However, an email sent from James’ office containing a press release about the ban allowed the addresses of all 300 recipients to be seen by other people. James described the incident as a data “error,” but many were quick to express skepticism over the ministry’s ability to enforce data security when their press release addressing the issue was itself a breach of data privacy.

The shape and form that the age verification checks remain vague at this time. According to a press release from the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), the body that will enforce and regulate the law:

“There will be a number of age-verification options available, so a user can choose what’s right for them […] Age-verification solutions range from the use of traditional ID documents online (for example, credit cards or passports) to mobile phones where the adult filters have been removed. Users can also use digital IDs or buy a card over the counter in a shop where the verification is face to face.”

Privacy Concerns

BBFC also stated in the press release that they plan to implement a “voluntary” age-certification program called the Age-verification Certificate (AVC), in order to better ensure privacy and data security.

Under the AVC program, providers that choose to become certified will receive a green ‘AV’ symbol which indicates that “rigorous security checks have been met and the provider has a high standard of data protection.”

While the government seems keen on ensuring data security protections, some people are concerned that the law could result in the creation of a database that contains private identification information of the UK’s porn viewers.

Jim Killock, the Executive Director of Open Rights Group, warned that such a database could pose a huge privacy risk if the BBFC goes forward with its “voluntary” verification system and does not impose a mandatory one.

“The idea that they are ‘optional’ is dangerous and irresponsible,” Killock said.“Having some age verification that is good and other systems that are bad is unfair and a scammer’s paradise – of the government’s own making.”

“Data leaks could be disastrous,” Killock continued.“The government needs to shape up and legislate for privacy before their own policy results in people being outed, careers destroyed or suicides being provoked.”

Is the Law Too Lax?

Others have criticized the new legislation as potentially ineffective, noting that there will likely be a number of ways for people to skirt the law.

People who want to bypass the restrictions can just go to platforms that are not covered by the rules. A good number of websites fall under this category because of a provision in the law that says more than a third of a website’s content has to be pornographic to quality as a pornography provider.

Under that exception, sites like Twitter, Reddit, and Imgur will not be regulated. Perhaps the biggest loophole is that the law does not apply to platforms that host pornography and do not charge fees or make money from advertisements or by other means.

Others are critical of how effective the verification checks will be. For example, if getting around a check requires a login that has been verified, it can be expected that those already-verified logins will be shared easily.

Additionally, because the law only applies in the UK, those who live in the UK can also flout the law by using a VPN so it appears their internet connection is in another country. This allows them to access that countries version of the website that does not have the ban.

The UK’s new ban comes a week after the government released a document proposing a set of rules which could penalize social media companies like Twitter and Facebook for allowing users to access harmful content including child abuse, terrorist content, cyberbullying and trolling, encouraging self-harm, and spreading disinformation.

In addition to punishing social media companies by holding them legally accountable for content that is deemed harmful, the government also said it was looking into ways it could slap tech companies with heavy fines, block access to websites, and hold company executives personally liable for not limiting harmful content.

Critics of the proposed rules have argued that they could lead to censorship and have unintended ramifications for tech companies. Like the pornography ban, the proposed rules are aimed at regulating social media and internet safety.

See what others are saying: (The Independent) (BBC) The Guardian)

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Hurricane Ian Makes Landfall in Cuba as Florida Braces for Devastation

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When it hits the sunshine state, Ian is expected to be a category 3 hurricane.


Ian Lands in Cuba

Hurricane Ian made landfall in Cuba Tuesday morning as a major category 3 storm, battering the western parts of the country with sustained winds of 125 miles per hour.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned that life-threatening storm surges, hurricane-force winds, flash floods, and mudslides are expected. Officials said that around 50,000 people have been evacuated as of Tuesday afternoon. 

According to reports, flooding has damaged houses and tobacco crops in the region, and widespread power outages have also been reported.

As dangerous conditions continue in Cuba, Ian is expected to move into the Gulf of Mexico and pass west of the Florida Keys later on Tuesday, becoming a category 4 before the end of the day.

Officials predict it will drop back to a category 3 before making landfall as a major hurricane in Florida, which it is expected to do Wednesday evening.

In a statement Tuesday afternoon, FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell said that Ian is currently forecast to land “somewhere between Fort Meyers and Tampa.” She added that the storm is expected to slow down as it hits Flordia, extending the potential devastation.

Uncertain Path

Forecasts of Ian’s path, however, remain uncertain, leaving residents all over Florida scrambling to prepare for the storm.

Schools have closed down, airports have suspended operations, and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has activated the National Guard and taken steps to ensure power outages can be remedied, warning that many should anticipate losing power.

There are also numerous storm and surge watches and warnings in place across Florida and in parts of Georgia and South Carolina.  

Evacuation warnings have been implemented throughout many parts of Florida, and officials have said that around 2.5 million people were under some kind of evacuation order by Tuesday afternoon.

Mandatory evacuations have been put in place in several counties, largely focused on coastal and low-lying areas. Some of those evacuation orders have extended to parts of Tampa — Florida’s third-largest city.

Tampa has not been hit by a major hurricane in over a century — a fact that just further emphasizes the unusual path this storm is taking. 

Florida’s Division of Emergency Management has a tool to track evacuation zones, as well as more resources at floridadisaster.org. For those looking for shelter, the Red Cross has a system to find one nearby. 

Continued Threats

The current evacuations are being driven by a number of very serious threats posed by Hurricane Ian. According to the NHC, hurricane-force winds, tropical storm conditions, heavy rainfall, and flooding are expected throughout much of the region.

“Considerable” flooding is also expected in central Florida and predicted to extend into southern Georgia and coastal South Carolina.

One of the biggest threats this hurricane poses is storm surge flooding at the coast — which has been a driving factor in the evacuations.

“Life-threatening storm surge looks increasingly likely along much of the Florida west coast where a storm surge warning is in effect, with the highest risk from Fort Myers to the Tampa Bay region,” the NHC warned Tuesday.

As many experts have pointed out, these dangerous threats of storm surges and catastrophic flooding have been drastically exacerbated by climate change. Specifically, sea level rise driven by climate change makes surges and flooding more likely and more extreme.

According to Axios, a profound example can be found in St. Petersburg, Florida — which is expected to be impacted by Ian — and where sea levels have risen by nearly nine inches since 1947.

That, however, is not only the real-time impact of climate change that is evident from this storm. In addition to climate change being “linked to an increase in rainfall from tropical storms and hurricanes,” Axios also notes that Ian “has been rapidly intensifying over extremely warm sea surface temperatures in the Caribbean that are running above average for this time of year.”

“Climate change favors more instances of rapidly intensifying storms such as Hurricane Ian, due to the combination of warming seas and a warmer atmosphere that can carry additional amounts of water vapor,” the outlet added.

See what others are saying: (Axios) (The New York Times) (CNN)

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Giorgia Meloni Claims Victory in Far-Right Shift for Italy

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Her party has neofascist roots, and she has praised Mussolini in the past.


An Election Without Precedent

Giorgia Meloni’s far-right Brothers of Italy party grabbed the largest share of votes in Italy’s national election by a wide margin, giving the post of prime minister to the first woman and most right-wing politician since Benito Mussolini.

She declared victory early Monday morning after exit polls showed her party overwhelmingly in the lead with at least 26% of the vote, making it the dominant faction in the right-wing coalition, which got 44%.

The other two parties in the alliance — Mateo Salvini’s far-right League and Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right Forza Italia — took 9% and 8% of the vote, respectively.

The center-left alliance only garnered 26% of the vote, with 63% of votes counted, according to the interior ministry.

Voter turnout dropped to a record low at only 63.91%, nine points below the rate in 2018, with turnout especially dismal in southern regions like Sicily.

Meloni is set to become prime minister in the coming weeks as a new government is formed, and the rest of Europe is bracing for what many see as a neofascist demagogue to take power in the continent’s third largest economy.

Speaking to media and supporters following the preliminary results, Meloni said it was “a night of pride for many and a night of redemption.” She promised to govern for all Italians and unite the country.

But her relatively extreme politics — opposed to immigration, the European Union, and what she calls “gender ideology” — unsettles many who fear she will roll back civil rights and form a Euroskeptic alliance with other far-right leaders like Hungary’s Viktor Orban.

The Next Mussolini?

During the election, Meloni stressed that she is a conservative, not a fascist, but opponents point to her rhetoric, past statements, and party’s history as evidence to the contrary.

“Either you say yes or you say no,” she howled to Spain’s far-right Vox party earlier this year. “Yes to the natural family, no to the LGBT lobby. Yes to sex identity, no to gender ideology. Yes to the culture of life, not the abysm of death. Yes to the university of the cross, no to the Islamist violence. Yes to secure borders, no to mass migration. Yes to the work of our citizens, no to big international finance. Yes to the sovereignty of peoples, no to the bureaucrats in Brussels. And yes to our civilization.”

Meloni co-founded Brothers of Italy in 2012 as an alternative to the more mainstream right-wing parties. It has roots in the Italian Social Movement (MSI), a neofascist party that sprouted in the wake of World War II to continue Mussolini’s legacy after his party was banned. The Movement’s symbol — a tricolor flame — remains on the Brothers of Italy’s Flag today, and Meloni has refused to remove it.

She joined the MSI’s youth branch in the 1990s and went on to lead it after the party was renamed the National Alliance.

“I believe that Mussolini was a good politician, which means that everything he did, he did for Italy,” Meloni said at the time.

For the first decade, Brothers of Italy struggled to win more than a single-digit percentage of the vote, and it only garnered 4% in the 2018 election.

But in 2021 and 2022, it distinguished itself as the only opposition party to the unity government that fell apart last July, causing its popularity to inflate.

But the party still wrestles with its fascistic roots; last week, it suspended a member who was running for parliament because a local newspaper revealed that he had made comments supporting Adolf Hitler.

In an August video, Meloni promised to impose a naval blockade in the Mediterranean to interdict Libyan refugees from crossing to Southern Europe on boats. She has also discussed pulling Italy out of the Eurozone or even the E.U. entirely, but she moderated her rhetoric toward Europe during the election.

Italy has received some 200 billion euros in European pandemic recovery funds, and it is set to receive more unless the Union punishes Meloni’s government for democratic backsliding.

See what others are saying: (BBC) (Associated Press) (NPR)

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Iranian Protests Sparked by Death of Mahsa Amini Spread Internationally

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Anger initially directed at the police has now shifted to the Islamic regime itself, with Iranian-Americans protesting outside the U.N. Headquarters as their country’s president spoke inside.


Hijabs Go Up in Flames

The largest protest movement in recent years has gripped Iran since the so-called morality police allegedly beat 22-year-old Mahsa Amini for violating the dress code last week, leading to her later death.

Demonstrations spread from the capital Tehran to at least 80 other cities and towns, with videos on social media showing women burning their hijabs and cutting their hair in defiance.

In response, the government has gradually extended a virtual internet blackout across the country, blocking access to What’s App and Instagram.

To prevent protests from spreading, Iran’s biggest telecom operator largely shut down mobile internet access again Thursday, Netblocks, a group that monitors internet access, said in a statement, describing the restrictions as the most severe since 2019.

Clashes between police and protestors have killed some, but death toll reports on Thursday were conflicted. The Associated Press tallied at least nine people dead, while Iran’s state television put the number at 17, and a human rights group estimated at least 31 deaths.

The violence began on Saturday, shortly after the news that Amini had died the day prior in the hospital where she was comatose for three days.

Previously, the morality police arrested her for violating Islamic law requiring women to cover their hair with a head scarf and wear long, loose-fitting clothing.

Multiple reports and eyewitness accounts claimed that officers beat her in the head with batons and banged her head against one of their vehicles, but authorities have denied harming her, saying she suffered a “sudden heart failure.” Her father told BBC that she was in good health and that he had not been allowed to view her autopsy report.

“My son was with her. Some witnesses told my son she was beaten in the van and in the police station,” he said.

Surveillance footage was released showing Amini collapsing inside the hospital after grabbing her head, seemingly in pain.

From Anti-Hijab to Anti-Regime

Although the protests began in reaction to Amini’s death and Iran’s repressive policing, they quickly flowered into a mass opposition movement against the Islamic regime as men joined ranks of demonstrators and chants of “Death to the dictator!” broke out.

The anger was directed at the country’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as well as President Ebrahim Raisi, who attended the United Nations General Assembly this week. Iranian-Americans rallied outside the U.N. Headquarters Wednesday to voice their discontent as Raisi addressed the assembly.

“The hijab is used as a weapon in Iran,” one woman told CBS in Los Angeles. “It is a weapon against the West, and women are used as pawns.”

“Let this be the George Flloyd moment of Iran,” she added.

There have also been demonstrations of solidarity in countries such as Lebanon, Germany, and Canada.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Al Jazeera) (BBC)

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