Archive for the ‘EU’ Category

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EU flagThe European Union is in the process of creating an authority to monitor and censor so-called fake news. It is setting up a High-Level ‘Expert’ Group. The EU is currently consulting media professionals and the public to decide what powers to give to this EU body, which is to begin operation next spring.The World Socialist Web Site has its own colourful view on the intentions of the body, but I don’t suppose it is too far from the truth:

An examination of the EU’s announcement shows that it is preparing mass state censorship aimed not at false information, but at news reports or political views that encourage popular opposition to the European ruling class.

It aims to create conditions where unelected authorities control what people can read or say online.

EU Vice-President Frans Timmermans explained the move in ominous tersm

We live in an era where the flow of information and misinformation has become almost overwhelming. The EU’s task is to protect its citizens from fake news and to manage the information they receive.

According to an EU press release, the EU Commission, another unelected body, will select the High-Level Expert Group, which is to start in January 2018 and will work over several months. It will discuss possible future actions to strengthen citizens’ access to reliable and verified information and prevent the spread of disinformation online.

Who will decide what views are verified, who is reliable and whose views are disinformation to be deleted from Facebook or removed from Google search results? The EU, of course.

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EU flagThe European Union voted on November 14, to pass the new internet censorship regulation nominally in the name of consumer protection. But of course censorship often hides behind consumer protection, eg the UK’s upcoming internet porn ban is enacted in the name of protecting under 18 internet consumers.The new EU-wide law gives extra power to national consumer protection agencies, but which also contains a vaguely worded clause that also grants them the power to block and take down websites without judicial oversight.

Member of the European Parliament Julia Reda said in a speech in the European Parliament Plenary during a last ditch effort to amend the law:

The new law establishes overreaching Internet blocking measures that are neither proportionate nor suitable for the goal of protecting consumers and come without mandatory judicial oversight,

According to the new rules, national consumer protection authorities can order any unspecified third party to block access to websites without requiring judicial authorization, Reda added later in the day on her blog .

This new law is an EU regulation and not a directive, meaning its obligatory for all EU states.

The new law proposal started out with good intentions, but sometimes in the spring of 2017, the proposed regulation received a series of amendments that watered down some consumer protections but kept intact the provisions that ensured national consumer protection agencies can go after and block or take down websites.

Presumably multinational companies had been lobbying for new weapons n their battle against copyright infringement. For instance, the new law gives national consumer protection agencies the legal power to inquire and obtain information about domain owners from registrars and Internet Service Providers.

Besides the website blocking clause, authorities will also be able to request information from banks to detect the identity of the responsible trader, to freeze assets, and to carry out mystery shopping to check geographical discrimination or after-sales conditions.

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Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus "Welcome to Amerika" Pack Germany has a bizarre censorship law that bans Nazi references and symbology from use in the media, presumably fearing that it may somehow stir a rebirth of the far right. One suspects that the current resurgence of the far right may be little do with media images, and is perhaps more likely to do with political leaders and their significantly unpopular policies of welcoming mass immigration.Anyway the law is the law, and the latest video game in the Wolfenstein series has had to be censored in Germany (and probably Austria too). The previous episode, Wolfenstein: The New Order was also cut in 2014 to remove Nazi references.

wolfenstein ii video Wolfenstein II: Welcome to Amerika suffers the following cuts:

  • Hitler is renamed heiler (healer)
  • My fuhrer becomes mein Kanzler (my chancellor)
  • Hitler loses his iconic moustache
  • The swastika is replaced by a stark menacing looking three-pronged symbol
  • polygon.com also speculates that an actor is shot by Hitler for being a spy rather than being jewish.
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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.