Posts Tagged ‘EU’

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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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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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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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european commission logoSocial media giants Facebook, Google and Twitter will be forced to change their terms of service for EU users within a month, or face hefty fines from European authorities, an official said on Friday.The move was initiated after politicians have decided to blame their unpopularity on ‘fake news’ rather than their own incompetence and their failure to listen to the will of the people.

The EU Commission sent letters to the three companies in December, stating that some terms of service were in breach of EU protection laws and urged them to do more to prevent fraud on their platforms. The EU has also urged social media companies to do more when it comes to assessing the suitability of user generated content.

The letters, seen by Reuters, explained that the EU Commission also wanted clearer signposting for sponsored content, and that mandatory rights, such as cancelling a contract, could not be interfered with.

Germany said this week it is working on a new law that would see social media sites face fines of up to $53 million if they failed to strengthen their efforts to remove material that the EU does not like. German censorship minister Heiko Mass said:

There must be as little space for criminal incitement and slander on social networks as on the streets. Too few criminal comments are deleted and they are not erased quickly enough. The biggest problem is that networks do not take the complaints of their own users seriously enough…it is now clear that we must increase the pressure on social networks.

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European Parliament logo Earlier this week we explained how the tide is turning against the European Commission’s proposal for Internet platforms to adopt new compulsory copyright filters as part of its upcoming Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. As we explained, users and even the European Parliament’s Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) have criticized the Commission’s proposal, which could stifle online expression, hinder competition, and suppress legal uses of copyrighted content, like creating and sharing Internet memes .

Since then, a leaked report has revealed that one of the European Parliament’s most influential committees has also come out against the proposal . As the IMCO committee’s report had done, the report of the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs (JURI) Committee not only criticizes the upload filtering proposal (aka. Article 13, or the #censorshipmachine), but renders even harsher judgment on a separate proposal to require online news aggregators to pay copyright-like licensing fees to the publishers they link to (aka. Article 11, or the link tax ). We’ll take these one at a time.

JURI Committee Scales Back the EU’s Censorship Machine

The JURI committee would maintain the requirement for copyright holders to “take appropriate and proportionate measures to ensure the functioning of agreements concluded with rightsholders for the use of their works.” But the committee rejects the proposed requirement for automatic blocking or deletion of uploaded content, because it fails to take account of the limitations and exceptions to copyright that Europe recognizes, such as the right of quotation. The committee writes in an Explanatory Statement:

The process cannot underestimate the effects of the identification of user uploaded content which falls within an exception or limitation to copyright. To ensure the continued use of such exceptions and limitations, which are based on public interest concerns, communication between users and rightsholders also needs to be efficient.

The committee also affirms that the agreements between rightsholders and platforms don’t detract from the safe harbor protection for platforms that Europe’s E-Commerce Directive already provides (which is analogous to the DMCA safe harbor in the U.S.). This means that if user-uploaded content appears on a platform without a license from the copyright holder, the platform’s only obligation is to remove that content on receipt of a request by the copyright holder.

We would have liked to see a stronger denunciation of the mandate for Internet platforms to enter into licensing agreements with copyright holders, and we maintain that the provision is better deleted altogether. Nonetheless, the committee’s report, if reflected in the final text, should rule out the worst-case scenario of platforms being required to automatically flag and censor copyright material as it is uploaded.Â

European Link Tax Faces its Toughest Odds Ever

The leaked report goes further in its response to the link tax, recommending that it be dropped from the new copyright directive altogether. Given the failure of smaller scale link tax schemes in Germany and Spain , this was the only sensible position for the committee to take. The Explanatory Statement to the report correctly distinguishes between two separate aspects of the use of news reporting online that the Commission’s original proposal incorrectly conflates:

Digitalisation makes it easier for content found in press publications to be copied or taken. Digitalisation also facilitates access to news and press by providing digital users a referencing or indexing system that leads them to a wide range of news and press. Both processes need to be recognised as separate processes.

Instead of introducing new monopoly rights for publishers, the JURI committee suggests simplifying the process by which publishers can take copyright infringement action in the names of the journalists whose work is appropriated. This would address the core problem of full news reports being republished without permission, but without creating new rights over mere snippets of news that accompany links to their original sources. Far from being a problem, this use is actually beneficial for news organizations.

The JURI committee report is just a recommendation for the amendment of the European Commission proposal, and it will still be some months before we learn whether these recommendations will be reflected in the final compromise text. Nonetheless, it is heartening to see the extreme proposals of the Commission getting chiseled away by one of the Parliament’s most influential committees.

The importance of this shouldn’t be underestimated. Although the above proposals are limited to Europe at present, there is the very real prospect that, if they succeed, they will pop up in the United States as well. In fact, U.S. content industry groups are already advocating for the adoption of an upload filtering proposal stateside. That’s why it’s vital not only for Europeans to speak out against these dangerous proposals, but also for Internet users around the world to stand on guard, and to be ready to fight back.