Whilst the EU ramps up internet censorship, particularly people's criticism of its policies, the Council of Europe calls for internet censorship to be transparent and limited to the minimum necessary by law
The Council of Europe is an intergovernmental body entirely separate from the European Union. With a wider membership of 47 states, it seeks
to promote democracy, human rights and the rule of law, including by monitoring adherence to the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights.
Its Recommendations are not legally binding on Member States, but are very influential in the development of national policy and of the policy and law of the European Union.
The Council of Europe has published a Recommendation
to Member States on the roles and responsibilities of Internet intermediaries. The Recommendation declares that access to the Internet is a precondition for the ability effectively to exercise fundamental human rights, and seeks to protect users
by calling for greater transparency, fairness and due process when interfering with content.
The Recommendations' key provisions aimed at governments include:
Public authorities should only make "requests, demands or other actions addressed to internet intermediari es that interferes with human rights and fundamental freedoms" when prescribed by law. This means they should therefore avoid
asking intermediaries to remove content under their terms of service or to make their terms of service more restrictive.
Legislation giving powers to public authorities to interfere with Internet content should clearly define the scope of those powers and available discretion, to protect against arbitrary application.
When internet intermediaries restrict access to third-party content based on a State order, State authorities should ensure that effective redress mechanisms are made available and adhere to applicable procedural safeguards.
When intermediaries remove content based on their own terms and conditions of service, this should not be considered a form of control that makes them liable for the third-party content for which they provide access.
Member States should consider introducing laws to prevent vexatious lawsuits designed to suppress users free expression, whether by targeting the user or the intermediary. In the US, these are known as " anti-SLAPP laws ".
A book about Spain's drug-smuggling underworld was banned last week by a Madrid courta. José Alfredo Bea Gondar, a former mayor of the coastal town of O Grove in Galicia, to freeze distribution of Fariña (Blow) by Nacho Carretero Pou
because of references to his alleged involvement in the unloading of a shipment of cocaine and a supposed negotiation between Colombia's Cali cartel and local smugglers. The book is banned pending the hearing of libel case.
Kicking against what they consider outdated censorship, a booksellers' association has reacted to the seizure of the non-fiction book 'Fariña' by launching a website to replicate it word for word. The website includes a digital tool that searches
for and locates the 80,000 words that make up the banned book from within the text of Don Quixote , extracting them one by one to recompose the banned book. On Friday after two days online, the website had racked up over 30,000 hits,
according to the Booksellers Guild of Madrid. Fernando Valverde, the Guild secretary explained;
It's a metaphor for the fact that in the digital era you can seize a book, but you cannot gag words.
It is not clear whether the ruse is a legal way for people to read it.
The EU is considering a copyright proposal that would require code-sharing platforms to monitor all content that users upload for
potential copyright infringement (see the EU Commission's proposed Article 13 of the Copyright Directive ). The proposal is aimed at music and videos on streaming platforms, based on a theory of a "value gap" between the profits those
platforms make from uploaded works and what copyright holders of some uploaded works receive. However, the way it's written captures many other types of content, including code.
We'd like to make sure developers in the EU who understand that automated filtering of code would make software less reliable and more expensive--and can explain this to EU policymakers--participate in the conversation.
Why you should care about upload filters
Upload filters (" censorship machines ") are one of the most controversial elements of the copyright proposal, raising a number of concerns, including:
Privacy : Upload filters are a form of surveillance, effectively a "general monitoring obligation" prohibited by EU law
Free speech : Requiring platforms to monitor content contradicts intermediary liability protections in EU law and creates incentives to remove content
Ineffectiveness : Content detection tools are flawed (generate false positives, don't fit all kinds of content) and overly burdensome, especially for small and medium-sized businesses that might not be able to afford
them or the resulting litigation
Upload filters are especially concerning for software developers given that:
Software developers create copyrightable works--their code--and those who choose an open source license want to allow that code to be shared
False positives (and negatives) are especially likely for software code because code often has many contributors and layers, often with different licensing for different components
Requiring code-hosting platforms to scan and automatically remove content could drastically impact software developers when their dependencies are removed due to false positives
A German law requiring social media companies like Facebook and Twitter to remove reported hate speech without
enough time to consider the merits of the report is set to be revised following criticism that too much online content is being blocked.
The law, called NetzDG for short, is an international test case and how it plays out is being closely watched by other countries considering similar measures.
German politicians forming a new government told Reuters they want to add an amendment to help web users get incorrectly deleted material restored online.
The lawmakers are also pushing for social media firms to set up an independent body to review and respond to reports of offensive content from the public, rather than leaving to the social media companies who by definition care more about profits
than supporting free speech.
Such a system, similar to how video games are policed in Germany, could allow a more considered approach to complex decisions about whether to block content, legal experts say.
Facebook, which says it has 1,200 people in Germany working on reviewing posts out of 14,000 globally responsible for moderating content and account security, said it was not pursuing a strategy to delete more than necessary. Richard Allan,
Facebook's vice president for EMEA public policy said:
People think deleting illegal content is easy but it's not. Facebook reviews every NetzDG report carefully and with legal expertise, where appropriate. When our legal experts advise us, we follow their assessment so we can meet our obligations
under the law.
Johannes Ferchner, spokesman on justice and consumer protection for the Social Democrats and one of the architects of the law said:
We will add a provision so that users have a legal possibility to have unjustly deleted content restored.
Thomas Jarzombek, a Christian Democrat who helped refine the law, said the separate body to review complaints should be established, adding that social media companies were deleting too much online content. NetzDG already allows for such a
self-regulatory body, but companies have chosen to go their own way instead. According to the coalition agreement, both parties want to develop the law to encourage the establishment of such a body.
Authorities in Germany said they have received far fewer complaints from citizens than expected since the
country's social network censorship law (NetzDG) went into effect 01 January, reported Heise Online.
Germany's Federal Office for Justice (BfJ), the division of Germany's Federal Minister of Justice responsible for enforcing the law said they have received only 205 complaints since January, less than 1% of the amount predicted. The German
government had assumed that citizens would file roughly 25,000 complaints with the BfJ .
The European Union has given Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other internet companies three months to show that
they are removing extremist content more rapidly or face legislation forcing them to do so.
The European Commission said on Thursday that internet firms should be ready to remove extremist content within an hour of being notified and recommended measures they should take to stop its proliferation. Digital commissioner Andrus Ansip said:
While several platforms have been removing more illegal content than ever before ... we still need to react faster against terrorist propaganda and other illegal content which is a serious threat to our citizens' security, safety and fundamental
The EC said that it would assess the need for legislation of technology firms within three months if demonstrable improvement is not made on what it describes as terrorist content. For all other types of 'illegal' content the EC will assess the
technology firms' censorship progress within six months.
It also urged the predominantly US-dominated technology sector to adopt a more proactive approach, with automated systems to detect and censor 'illegal' content.
A controversial Polish law censoring certain claims regarding the Holocaust and banning the use of the phrase Polish death camps went into
Polish President Andrzej Duda signed the bill into law, after it passed by wide margins in both chambers of the Polish legislature.
The law bans the phrase Polish death camps, and outlaws claims of collusion by the Polish nation with the Holocaust. Anyone found guilty of ascribing responsibility or co-responsibility to the Polish nation or state for crimes committed by the
German Third Reich could be sentenced to as much as three years in prison under the new law.
In the meantime the phrase "Polish death camps' has never been heard quite so often as in the last couple of months.
An Italian porn star who dreamt up a fun filled stunt at a recent referendum has been banned from Instagram ahead of a
general election lest she repeat it.
Paola Saulino previously promised a blow job for those that voted against constitutional reforms. The reforms were duly rejected Paola launched her Pompa Tour - which translates as Oral Tour - during which she claimed to have pleasured 700 men.
She says she has just been barred from contacting her 430,000 followers over fears she may try and swing the vote, which is due to take place on Sunday.
Saulino said she has complained to Instagram about being banned, saying she is paying the price for her lifestyle
It is a little bizarre that a government that has been in office for long enough to pass plenty of laws that effect people's lives. Presumably if they feel a little insecure, it is because they haven't done a good job in doing things that attract
support. And then to think that elections can be swung by trivial propaganda or a silly stunt, it's insulting to the electors, and so the politicians deserve to be kicked out.
Last week, the European Parliament's MEP in charge of overhauling the EU's copyright laws did a U-turn on his predecessor's
position. Axel Voss is charged with making the EU's copyright laws fit for the Internet Age, yet in a staggering disregard for advice from all quarters, he decided to include a obligation on websites to automatically filter content.
Article 13 sets out how online platforms should manage user-uploaded content appears to have the most dangerous implications for fundamental rights. Never mind that the new Article 13 proposal runs directly contrary to an existing EU law -- the
eCommerce Directive - which prohibits member states from imposing general monitoring obligations on hosting providers.
Six countries -- Belgium, the Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, and the Netherlands -- sought advice from the Council's Legal Service last July, asked specifically if the standalone measure/obligation as currently proposed under Article
13 [would] be compatible with the Charter of Human Rights and queried are the proposed measures justified and proportionate? But this does not seem to have been addressed.
The aim of the rule, which is in line with the European Commission's proposals more than a year ago, is to strengthen the music industry in negotiations with the likes of YouTube, Dailymotion, etc. Under Voss' revised Article 13, websites and apps
that allow users to upload content must acquire copyright licenses for EVERYTHING, something that is in practice impossible. If they cannot, those platforms must filter all user-uploaded content.
The truth is that this latest copyright law proposal favors the rights-holders above anyone else. And we though MEPs represented the people.
Madrid's International Contemporary Art Fair (ARCO) has pulled a photo exhibition called Political
Prisoners in Contemporary Spain amid controversy because it includes images of Catalan politicians that are currently in jail.
The decision to remove the exhibition within hours of the art fair opening to the press has been attributed to censorship. The exhibition space is government funded so sensitivities have to be observed.
The polemic exhibit contained 24 black and white portraits by Spanish conceptual artist Santiago Sierra, displayed in the stand assigned to the Helga de Alvear gallery.
Gallery organisers were asked to remove the exhibit on Wednesday just hours after a press preview ahead of the art fair opening to the public.
The Spanish Supreme Court has upheld a decision to jail a rapper for three and a half years for a song deemed to have glorified terrorism and insulted the crown, sparking a debate about freedom of expression in the country.
The court rejected arguments by little-known rapper Jose Miguel Arenas Beltran, stage name Valtonyc, that his songs were protected by freedom of expression laws, when ratifying a sentence handed down last February.
Among the lyrics deemed criminal were: Let them be as frightened as a police officer in the Basque Country, a reference to violence against police officers in the region by the now-disarmed Basque separatist group ETA.
Valtonyc went on to fantasize about the king having a rendez-vous at the village square, with a noose around his neck. In another track Valtonyc referenced a Spanish politician and aristocrat involved in a corruption scandal about forcing
her to see how her son lives among rats.