Archive for the ‘EU’ Category

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EU flagArticle 13: Monitoring and filtering of internet content is unacceptable. Index on Censorship joined with 56 other NGOs to call for the deletion of Article 13 from the proposal on the Digital Single Market, which includes obligations on internet companies that would be impossible to respect without the imposition of excessive restrictions on citizens’ fundamental rights.

Dear President Juncker,
Dear President Tajani,
Dear President Tusk,
Dear Prime Minister Ratas,
Dear Prime Minister Borissov,
Dear Ministers,
Dear MEP Voss, MEP Boni

The undersigned stakeholders represent fundamental rights organisations.

Fundamental rights, justice and the rule of law are intrinsically linked and constitute core values on which the EU is founded. Any attempt to disregard these values undermines the mutual trust between member states required for the EU to function. Any such attempt would also undermine the commitments made by the European Union and national governments to their citizens.

Article 13 of the proposal on Copyright in the Digital Single Market include obligations on internet companies that would be impossible to respect without the imposition of excessive restrictions on citizens’ fundamental rights.

Article 13 introduces new obligations on internet service providers that share and store user-generated content, such as video or photo-sharing platforms or even creative writing websites, including obligations to filter uploads to their services. Article 13 appears to provoke such legal uncertainty that online services will have no other option than to monitor, filter and block EU citizens’ communications if they are to have any chance of staying in business.

Article 13 contradicts existing rules and the case law of the Court of Justice. The Directive of Electronic Commerce ( 2000/31/EC) regulates the liability for those internet companies that host content on behalf of their users. According to the existing rules, there is an obligation to remove any content that breaches copyright rules, once this has been notified to the provider.

Article 13 would force these companies to actively monitor their users’ content, which contradicts the ‘no general obligation to monitor’ rules in the Electronic Commerce Directive. The requirement to install a system for filtering electronic communications has twice been rejected by the Court of Justice, in the cases Scarlet Extended ( C 70/10) and Netlog/Sabam (C 360/10). Therefore, a legislative provision that requires internet companies to install a filtering system would almost certainly be rejected by the Court of Justice because it would contravene the requirement that a fair balance be struck between the right to intellectual property on the one hand, and the freedom to conduct business and the right to freedom of expression, such as to receive or impart information, on the other.

In particular, the requirement to filter content in this way would violate the freedom of expression set out in Article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. If internet companies are required to apply filtering mechanisms in order to avoid possible liability, they will. This will lead to excessive filtering and deletion of content and limit the freedom to impart information on the one hand, and the freedom to receive information on the other.

If EU legislation conflicts with the Charter of Fundamental Rights, national constitutional courts are likely to be tempted to disapply it and we can expect such a rule to be annulled by the Court of Justice. This is what happened with the Data Retention Directive (2006/24/EC), when EU legislators ignored compatibility problems with the Charter of Fundamental Rights. In 2014, the Court of Justice declared the Data Retention Directive invalid because it violated the Charter.

Taking into consideration these arguments, we ask the relevant policy-makers to delete Article 13.

European Digital Rights (EDRi)
Access Info
ActiveWatch
Article 19
Associação D3 — Defesa dos Direitos Digitais
Associação Nacional para o Software Livre (ANSOL)
Association for Progressive Communications (APC)
Association for Technology and Internet (ApTI)
Association of the Defence of Human Rights in Romania (APADOR)
Associazione Antigone
Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication (BNNRC)
Bits of Freedom (BoF)
BlueLink Foundation
Bulgarian Helsinki Committee
Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT)
Centre for Peace Studies
Centrum Cyfrowe
Coalizione Italiana Liberta@ e Diritti Civili (CILD)
Code for Croatia
COMMUNIA
Culture Action Europe
Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
epicenter.works
Estonian Human Rights Centre
Freedom of the Press Foundation
Frënn vun der Ënn
Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights
Hermes Center for Transparency and Digital Human Rights
Human Rights Monitoring Institute
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Without Frontiers
Hungarian Civil Liberties Union
Index on Censorship
International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR)
International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
Internautas
JUMEN
Justice & Peace
La Quadrature du Net
Media Development Centre
Miklos Haraszti (Former OSCE Media Representative)
Modern Poland Foundation
Netherlands Helsinki Committee
One World Platform
Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI)
Open Rights Group (ORG)
OpenMedia
Panoptykon
Plataforma en Defensa de la Libertad de Información (PDLI)
Reporters without Borders (RSF)
Rights International Spain
South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
South East European Network for Professionalization of Media (SEENPM)
Statewatch
The Right to Know Coalition of Nova Scotia (RTKNS)
Xnet

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Norway flagNorway’s Culture Ministry is determined to revoke a century-old law on municipal cinema licensing in order to fight censorship and promote free speech.The Norwegian government’s proposal to reform the cinema concession law is aimed at ensuring more diversity and breadth in film choice, but it is facing resistance from the entrenched players.

According to Eva Liestøl, speaking for Norway’s film censors at the Norwegian Media Authority, whinged that enabling competition in the cinema industry may have far-reaching consequences. She said:

A revocation of licensing, combined with today’s simplified film production technology, can lead to a marked growth of Bollywood, Netflix, pop-up and downright porno cinemas.

The Media authority proposes that if local authority licensing is scrapped it should be replaced by a national cinema register in order to supervise, among other things, the observance of age limits.

The cinema concession act is 104 years old and dates back to 1913. The main argument from the government’s side is that the concession practice violates the constitution, because the municipalities, by deciding what is to be shown in the cinema, in practice indulge in censorship that can hinder the freedom of expression.

Arild Kalkvik, who chairs the Norwegian Association of Cinema Directors is inevitably unimpressed by freedom of expression, saying:

The termination of the licensing procedure, however, will unleash free market forces, which means that virtually anyone will be able to start a cinema anywhere and show anything they want. This can lead to the emergence of unserious actors who just want to take the cream off the milk with brief stints, which, you know, go well combined with alcohol sales

The law change has been in a consultation phase since this summer.

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Germany flagGermany’s new internet censorship law came into force on 1st October. The law nominally targets ‘hate speech’, but massively high penalties coupled with ridiculously short time scales allowed to consider the issues, mean that the law ensures that anything the authorities don’t like will have to be immediately censored…just in case.Passed earlier this summer, the law will financially penalize social media platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, if they don’t remove hate speech, as per its definition in Germany’s current criminal code within 24 hours. They will be allowed up to a week to decide for comments that don’t fall into the blatant hate speech category. The top fine for not deleting hate speech within 24 hours is 50 million euro though that would be for repeatedly breaking the law, not for individual cases.

Journalists, lawyers, and free-speech advocates have been voicing their concerns about the new law for months. They say that, to avoid fines, Facebook and others will err on the side of caution and just delete swathes of comments, including ones that are not illegal. They worry that social media platforms are being given the power to police and effectively shut down people’s right to free opinion and free speech in Germany.

The German Journalists Association (DJV) is calling on journalists and media organizations to start documenting all deletions of their posts on social media as of today. The borders of free speech must not be allowed to be drawn by profit-driven businesses, said DJV chairman Frank 3cberall in a recent statement.

Reporters Without Borders also expressed their strong opposition to the law when it was drafted in May, saying it would contribute to the trend to privatize censorship by delegating the duties of judges to commercial online platforms — as if the internet giants can replace independent and impartial courts.

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european commission logoVera Jourova, the EU’s commissioner for justice, is resisting calls to follow Theresa May’s censorship lead and legislate to fine internet companies who fail to take down anything deemed hate speech.Vera Jourova condemned Facebook as a highway for hatred, but the former Czech minister said she was not yet ready to promote EU-wide legislation similar to that being pursued in the UK, France and Germany. I would never say they [the UK, France and Germany] are wrong, but we all have the responsibility to react to this challenge with necessary and proportionate reaction, she told the Guardian.

In Britain, May is demanding that internet companies remove hateful content , in particular that aligned to terror organisations, within two hours of being discovered, or face financial sanctions. Under a law due to come into effect next month in Germany, social media companies face fines of up to £43m if they persistently fail to remove illegal content from their sites.

The commission is instead offering further guidance to internet companies about how they improve their record by complying with a voluntary code of conduct drawn up last year and so far adopted by Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

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European Parliament logoUnder disgraceful plans set out last year by the European Commission, news publishers would get extra rights over their content, giving them the right to charge and licence publishers seeking to use snippets or short quotes from articles. The policy has been dubbed ‘the link tax’.Now a key committee of the European Parliament, the Industry, Research and Energy Committee, wants to extend the proposals so that these rights would also cover publishers of academic research. Surely a nightmare for open access and open science. Researchers might have to pay, or might at least have to ask for permission, every time they want to quote another academic’s work in their piece.

If the proposed ancillary right is extended to academic publications, researchers, students and other users of scientific and scholarly journal articles could be forced to ask permission or pay fees to the publisher for including short quotations from a research paper in other scientific publications, according to an open letter from Science Europe.

But even if this latest amendment is not adopted, the wider plan could still make it much harder for everyone, including researchers, to include quotations from news articles in their work, the organisation fears. For example, students might have to buy a licence for every newspaper quote they use in a thesis. Links to news and the use of titles, headlines and fragments of information could now become subject to licensing. Terms could make the last two decades of news less accessible to researchers and the public, leading to a distortion of the public’s knowledge and memory of past events.

openmedia.org is campaigning against the link tax and notes:

open media logo Next week, MEPs on the European Parliament’s powerful Civil Liberties committee will vote on whether to approve the Link Tax and mass content filtering. With your help we’ve been relentlessly fighting to put a stop to this disastrous duo of copyright policy, and this is what all that pressure and hard work comes down to.

Let’s be clear: these proposals are abusing copyright to censor the Internet. Backed by powerful publishing lobbyists and unelected European Commissioners, they include sweeping powers for media giants to charge fees for links, and requirements that websites build censorship machines to monitor and block your content. But with the help of tens of thousands of EU citizens, we’ve made clear to the European Parliament just how dangerous and unpopular these censorship proposals really are.

See  article from boingboing.net . Boing Boing are also somewhat unipressed by the crap law being generated by the EU.:

boing boing logo The European Commission has a well-deserved reputation for bizarre, destructive, ill-informed copyright plans for the internet , and the latest one is no exception: mandatory copyright filters for any site that allows the public to post material, which will algorithmically determine which words, pictures and videos are lawful to post, untouched by human hands.

These filters already exist, for example in the form of Youtube’s notoriously hamfisted Content ID system, which demonstrates just how bad robots are at figuring out copyright law. But even if we could make filters that were 99% accurate, this would still be a catastrophe on a scale never seen in censorship’s long and dishonorable history: when you’re talking about hundreds of billions of tweets, Facebook updates, videos, pictures, posts and uploads, a 1% false-positive rate would amount to the daily suppression of the entire Library of Alexandria, or all the TV ever broadcast up until, say, 1980.

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Denmark flagA Danish man who posted a video of himself burning the Quran on Facebook will not stand trial after politicians abolished an outdated blasphemy law.The man was seen setting a large leather-bound copy of the holy book alight in a four-minute clip called Consider your neighbour: it stinks when it burns.

He faced up to four months in prison after prosecutors were alerted to the footage, which was posted to a Facebook group called Yes to freedom — no to Islam in December 2015. They brought blasphemy charges under clause 140 of Denmark’s penal code, which bars people from publicly insulting or degrading religious doctrines or worship.

But the case has been dropped after Danish MPs revoked the 334-year-old legislation, and declared they do not believe that there should be special rules protecting religions against expressions. MP Bruno Jerup told the Jyllands-Posten newspaper:

Religion should not dictate what is allowed and what is forbidden to say publicly.  It gives religion a totally unfair priority in society.

Threatening or degrading behaviour based on people’s religious beliefs will still be punishable under other Danish laws.

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Denmark flagDenmark’s blasphemy ban was recently revived when a man was charged for burning the Quran. Signatories argue that an expression grossly offensive to religious believers merits protection as peaceful ‘free speech’.

We the undersigned respectfully urge the Danish Parliament to vote in favour of bill L 170 repealing the blasphemy ban in section 140 of the Danish criminal code, punishing “Any person who, in public, ridicules or insults the dogmas or worship of any lawfully existing religious community”.

Denmark is recognized as a global leader when it comes to the protection of human rights and freedom of expression. However, Denmark’s blasphemy ban is manifestly inconsistent with the Danish tradition for frank and open debate, and puts Denmark in the same category as illiberal states where blasphemy laws are being used to silence dissent and persecute minorities. The recent decision to charge a man — who had burned the Quran — for violating section 140 for the first time since 1971, demonstrates that the blasphemy ban is not merely of symbolic value. It represents a significant retrograde step in the protection of freedom of expression in Denmark.

The Danish blasphemy ban is incompatible with both freedom of expression and equality before the law. There is no compelling reason why the feelings of religious believers should receive special protection against offense. In a vibrant and pluralistic democracy, all issues must be open to even harsh and scathing debate, criticism and satire. While the burning of holy books may be grossly offensive to religious believers it is nonetheless a peaceful form of symbolic expression that must be protected by free speech.

Numerous Danes have offended the religious feelings of both Christians and Muslims without being charged under section 140. This includes a film detailing the supposed erotic life of Jesus Christ, the burning of the Bible on national TV and the publication of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammed. The Cartoon affair landed Denmark in a storm of controversy and years of ongoing terrorist threats against journalists, editors and cartoonists. When terror struck in February 2015 the venue was a public debate on blasphemy and free speech.

In this environment Denmark must maintain that in a liberal democracy laws protect those who offend from threats, not those who threaten from being offended. In this environment Denmark must maintain that in a liberal democracy laws protect those who offend from threats, not those who threaten from being offended.Retaining the blasphemy ban is also incompatible with Denmark’s human rights obligations. In April 2017 Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagtland emphasized that “blasphemy should not be deemed a criminal offence as the freedom of conscience forms part of freedom of expression”. This position is shared by the UN’s Human Rights Committee and the EU Guidelines on Freedom of Expression and Religion.

Since 2014,The Netherlands, Norway, Iceland and Malta have all abolished blasphemy bans. By going against this trend Denmark will undermine the crucial European and international efforts to repeal blasphemy bans globally.

This has real consequences for human beings, religious and secular, around the globe. In countries like Pakistan, Mauritania, Iran, Indonesia and Russia blasphemy bans are being used against minorities and political and religious dissenters. Denmark’s blasphemy ban can be used to legitimize such laws. In 2016 the UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion or Belief pointed out that “During a conference held in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) [in 2015], the Danish blasphemy provision was cited by one presenter as an example allegedly indicating an emerging international customary law on “combating defamation of religions”.

Blasphemy laws often serve to legitimize violence and terror. In Pakistan, Nigeria and Bangladesh free thinkers, members of religious minorities and atheists have been killed by extremists. In a world where freedom of expression is in retreat and extremism on the rise, democracies like Denmark must forcefully demonstrate that inclusive, pluralistic and tolerant societies are built on the right to think, believe and speak freely. By voting to repeal the blasphemy ban Denmark will send a clear signal that it stands in solidarity with the victims and not the enforcers of blasphemy laws.

Jacob Mchangama, Executive director, Justitia
Steven Pinker, Professor Harvard University
Ahmedur Rashid Chowdhury, Exiled editor of Shuddhashar, 2016 winner International Writer of Courage Award
Pascal Bruckner, Author
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Human Rights Activist Founder of AHA Foundation,
Dr. Elham Manea, academic and human rights advocate (Switzerland)
Sultana Kamal, Chairperson, Centre for Social Activism Bangladesh
Deeyah Khan, CEO @Fuuse & founder @sister_hood_mag.
Fatou Sow, Women Living Under Muslim Laws
William Nygaard, Publisher
Flemming Rose, Author and journalist
Jodie Ginsberg, CEO, Index on Censorship
Kenan Malik, Author of From Fatwa to Jihad
Thomas Hughes, Executive Director Article 19
Suzanne Nossel, executive director of PEN America
Pragna Patel – Director of Southall Black Sisters
Leena Krohn, Finnish writer
Jeanne Favret-Saada, Honorary Professor of Anthropology, Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes,
Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
Fariborz Pooya, Host of Bread and Roses TV
Frederik Stjernfelt, Professor, University of Aalborg in Copenhagen
Marieme Helie Lucas, Secularism Is A Women’s Issue
Michael De Dora, Director of Government Affairs, Center for Inquiry
Robyn Blumner, President & CEO, Center for Inquiry
Nina Sankari, Kazimierz Lyszczynski Foundation (Poland).
Sonja Biserko, Founder and president of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia
James Lindsay, Author
Mahal Mali, Publisher and editor, Areo Magazine
Julie Lenarz – Executive Director, Human Security Centre, London
Terry Sanderson President, National Secular Society
Greg Lukianoff, CEO and President, FIRE
Thomas Cushman, Professor Wellesley College
Nadine Strossen, John Marshall Harlan II Professor of Law, New York Law School
Simon Cottee, the Freedom Project, Wellesley College
Paul Cliteur, professor of Jurisprudence at Leiden University
Lino Veljak, University of Zagreb, Croatia
Lalia Ducos, Women’s Initiative for Citizenship and Universals Rights , WICUR
Lepa Mladjenovic, LC, Belgrade
Elsa Antonioni, Casa per non subire violenza, Bologna
Bobana Macanovic, Autonomos Women’s Center, Director, Belgrade
Harsh Kapoor, Editor, South Asia Citizens Web
Mehdi Mozaffari, Professor Em., Aarhus University, Denmark
Øystein Rian, Historian, Professor Emeritus University of Oslo
Kjetil Jakobsen, Professor Nord University
Scott Griffen, Director of Press Freedom Programmes International Press Institute (IPI)
Henryk Broder, Journalist
David Rand, President, Libres penseurs athées, Atheist freethinkers Tom Herrenberg, Lecturer University of Leiden
Simone Castagno, Coordinamento Liguria Rainbow
Laura Caille, Secretary General Libres Mariannes General
Andy Heintz, writer
Bernice Dubois, Conseil Européen des Fédérations WIZO