The European Union strives to be a global leader in press freedom but faces challenges from member states that have criminal defamation and blasphemy laws, and have introduced counterterrorism measures, including mass surveillance.
The EU has made press freedom imperative in negotiating with candidate countries, but has been accused of failing to take strong action when member states renege on their press freedom commitments. Journalists working in the region
are also affected by EU laws and policies, such as the trade secrets directive and access to information regulations.
A special report by the Committee to Protect Journalists
The French internet censor has responded to a Google statement which explains why European internet censorship cannot be applied across the world.
This summer, France's Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertes (CNIL) sent Google an order
to not merely delist links from European Google searches but search results around the world, too. Google responded:
This is a troubling development that risks serious chilling effects on the web.
CNIL's president did not find this persuasive, rejecting Google's appeal of the order. In a statement released today, CNIL claimed that:
Once delisting is accepted by the search engine, it must be implemented on all extensions, because if this right was limited to some extensions, it could be easily circumvented: in order to find the delisted result, it
would be sufficient to search on another extension and this would equate stripping away the efficiency of this right.
CNIL pointed out that delisted info remains directly accessible on the source website or through a search using
other terms than an individual's name and:
In addition, this right is not absolute: it has to be reconciled with the public's right to information, in particular when the data subject is a public person, under the
double supervision of the CNIL and of the court.
Google must now comply with the formal notice or face CNIL's sanctions committee.
There's no further opportunity to appeal the decision at this stage under
French law. But if Google refuses to comply, it could later appeal any sanctions levied by CNIL. Fines would likely start at around € 300,000 but could increase to between 2-5% of Google's global operating costs. The search
engine could then go to the Conseil d'Etat, the supreme court for administrative justice, to appeal the decision and fine.
Facebook has announced that it is undertaking steps to counter racist postings by users in Germany after criticism by the Justice Ministry.
Facebook made the announcement just before a meeting with Justice Minister Heiko Maas to discuss the topic.
Facebook were 'invited' them to the meeting to discuss what he saw as a failure to act against violent and xenophobic comments which had proliferated due to the way the refugee crisis is being handled.
Facebook has unveiled several
censorship measures including signing up with the 'Voluntary' Self-censorship Service Provider (FSM) a group Facebook describes as a leading organization in the realm of internet security,
Facebook is also setting up a task force to find
solutions to the problem of racism on the internet. Thirdly Facebook are taking a few ideas from China with a campaign for counter speech , an Orwellian euphemism which means censoring criticism through propaganda postings on internet forums.
Facebook Germany's policy manager Eva-Maria Kirschsieper said in a statement.
We have seen how many groups have been organised on our platform aiming to help refugees. But a very small minority have been spreading
opinions that cross the line of acceptable behaviour.
Love is a 2015 France / Belgium drama by Gaspar Noé. Starring Gaspar Noé, Aomi Muyock and Klara Kristin.
France's culture minister plans to reconsider a law requiring non-porn film images
of real sex to be 18 rated since this restriction limits freedom of expression.
The move is linked Gaspar Noé's Love which features a scene with real sex.
The film was initially rated 16 as it came out in France this summer. However, as a
result of a lawsuit filed by a far-right political group, the country's cinema classification office was obliged to change it to to an 18 rating, a certificate previously exclusively reserved for porn films.
The far-right group managed to win the
case since under the French law any film that shows non-simulated sex scenes must be forbidden for under-18s.
Now France's culture minister Fleur Pellerin has commendably opposed the 18 rating noting that this is an indication of French
right-wingers and hard-line Catholics gaining ground.
She has appealed to the Conseil d'Etat to review the decision. She also said
We are working with the people who classify films to see how we can make things
evolve, while respecting the protection of minors.
The European Parliament has voted to adopt the conclusions of a report that defends encryption, anonymity and digital freedom.
The report, which was narrowly approved by 371 votes in favour to 293 against, criticised EU governments for supporting mass
The active complicity of certain EU member states in the NSA's mass surveillance of citizens and spying on political leaders, as revealed by Edward Snowden, has caused serious damage to the credibility of the
EU's human rights policy.
However, it's not just the US that has come in for a bashing in the resolution that was drafted by Dutch Liberal MEP Marietje Schaake. David Cameron's ideas about banning encryption or allowing backdoor
exploits for spying are also roundly condemned. The European Parliament said the EU should:
Counter the criminalisation of the use of encryption, anti-censorship and privacy tools by refusing to limit the use of
encryption within the EU, and by challenging third-country governments that criminalise such tools.
It also condemns the weakening and undermining of encryption protocols and products, particularly by intelligence services seeking
to intercept encrypted communications.
Schaake wants end-to-end encryption standards as a matter of course for all communication services.
Anish Kapoor's installation titled Dirty Corner has been vandalised for the second time. It is currently on show at the Palais de Versailles just outside Paris.
The contemporary work nicknamed the Queen's Vagina was daubed with insulting
slogans targeted at French jews eg: The second rape of the nation by deviant Jewish activism.
Fabrice Bousteau, editor-in-chief of Beaux Arts magazine and a commissioner of contemporary art exhibitions told the Guardian.
There is a minor faction of the French population that is fascist about culture and especially about what it considers to be degenerate art. Most French people are respectful of contemporary art, but these people see it as an
expression of France's degeneration.
Anish Kapoor has said he will keep the inscriptions, and in the sense that his work is a sociological statement, he is right to do so.
Kapoor's giant steel and rock
sculpture, on display in the Versailles gardens facing the palace and measuring 200 feet long and 33 feet high, is a huge funnel, which the 61-year-old artist has admitted is very sexual . Shortly after it was unveiled in June, it was splattered
with yellow paint. This was subsequently cleaned off.
This week, French president Francois Hollande condemned the latest attack and the antisemitic slogans sprayed on the sculpture as hateful . Culture minister Fleur Pellerin said she was
angry and shocked .
Germany has a wide range of opinions on the subject of immigration, and no doubt accepting one million Syrian refugees will be quite a challenge. The German government has been looking to keep the lid on internet comments on the subject. Unfortunately
for the censors, not all of the unwelcome comments have triggered the level of offence/threat/hatred etc set by internet companies that results in comments being removed. So the German government are currently trying to convince Facebook to be more
proactive in acting against comments that the government considers racist.
Germany's Justice Minister Heiko Maas has warned. In an interview with Reuters, Maas said:
If Facebook wants to do business in Germany,
then it must abide by German laws. It doesn't matter that we, because of historical reasons, have a stricter interpretation of freedom of speech than the United States does.
He said that Holocaust denial and inciting racial hatred are
crimes in Germany wherever they are found, and that he expects Facebook to be more vigilant in dealing with them on its service.
Maas has also made his views known in a letter to Facebook's public policy director in Dublin, Richard Allan.
Maas said that he had received many complaints from German users of Facebook that their protests about racist posts on the service have been ignored. Maas 'suggested' meeting with Allan in Berlin on 14 September to discuss the matter.
Complying with these kind of local laws is hardly a new problem for US companies that do business in Europe.
One obvious solution--censoring the German-language service and preventing
German Facebook users from accessing posts made on other parts of the system--is likely to be unacceptably extreme for users. On the other hand, solutions that only censor comments made on the German-language service, while leaving those posted elsewhere
untouched, will make it easy for German users to circumvent the country's laws. Think global, act local, may be great as an Internet slogan, but it's really hard to put into practice when it comes to the law.
The Jewish reggae star Matisyahu has been dropped by Spain's Rototom reggae festival after pressure from the boycott Israel campaign group, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). The group uses economic pressure to campaign for Palestinian rights.
Matisyahu reported on his Facebook page that Rototom organizers:
Wanted me to write a letter, or make a video, stating my positions on Zionism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to pacify the BDS people.
The festival kept insisting that I clarify my personal views; which felt like clear pressure to agree with the BDS political agenda. Honestly it was appalling and offensive, that as the one publicly Jewish-American artist scheduled
for the festival they were trying to coerce me into political statements.
No artist deserves to be put in such a situation simply to perform his or her art, he continued. Regardless of race, creed, country, cultural background,
etc, my goal is to play music for all people.
The artist was set to perform on Aug. 22 at the Rototom Sunsplash festival in Benicassim, near Barcelona, before his performance was axed last weekend.
A treason investigation into two journalists who reported that the German state planned to increase online surveillance has been suspended by the country's prosecutor general following protests by leading voices across politics and media.
Range, Germany's prosecutor general, said he was halting the investigation for the good of press and media freedom . It was the first time in more than half a century that journalists in Germany had faced charges of treason. Range said he would
await the results of an internal investigation into whether the journalists from the news platform netzpolitik.org had quoted from a classified intelligence report before deciding how to proceed.
His announcement followed a deluge of criticism and
accusations that Germany's prosecutor had misplaced priorities , having failed to investigate with any conviction the NSA spying scandal revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden, and targeting instead the two investigative journalists, Markus
Beckedahl and Andre Meister.
In a scathing attack, the leading Green MP Renate Künast, who is also chair of the Bundestag's legal affairs committee, called the investigation a humiliation to the rule of law . She accused Range of
disproportionately targeting the two journalists, whilst ignoring the massive spying and eavesdropping [conducted] by the NSA in Germany . Se added: If it wasn't for investigative journalism, we would know nothing.
In articles that
appeared on netzpolitik.org in February and April, the two reporters made reference to what is believed to be a genuine intelligence report that had been classified as confidential, which proposed establishing a new intelligence department to monitor the
internet, in particular social media networks.
Update: Prosecution of state snooping whistleblowers terminated
After much public outcry, the treason investigation into German blog Netzpolitik.org was paused late last week. And now it hass been officially dropped .
This is a victory for the free press and the German public. The
investigation, if permitted to continue, would have chilled and intimidated journalists from covering one of the most pressing issues of the day-- i.e ., mass surveillance of law-abiding citizens. As Netzpolitik journalist Andre Meister told EFF:
The secret services of the world need to be controlled and checked by all other pillars in society--executive, legislative, judiciary and the free press. Post-Snowden, it's undeniable that reporting on surveillance
capabilities is integral for keeping those antidemocratic institutions at bay. Germany too needs a broader debate on its secret services.
After the investigation of Netzpolitik came under fire from the public, the
German government scrambled to show its continued dedication to the free press. On Friday, July 31, 2015--soon after the investigation of Netzpolitik was confirmed in the press--Germany's Justice Minister Heiko Maas told the chief federal prosecutor that
he doubted the leaked documents constituted state secrets whose publication would endanger the security of the country. The next day, thousands marched in Berlin to protest the investigation, and on Monday, August 3, German Chancellor Angela
Merkel issued a statement giving her full support to the Justice Minister.
But the chief prosecutor, Harald Range, doubled-down on his determination to proceed with the investigation, criticizing the Justice Minister for
interfering with his investigation--a response which only further ignited public outrage. The Justice Minister ultimately fired Mr. Range over his handling of the case. At a press conference last week, the Justice Minister stated, my trust in his
ability to fulfill the office has suffered lasting damage[.] And on Monday, August 10, the prosecutor's office accepted the Justice Ministry's assessment that Netzpolitik did not leak state secrets, officially terminating the investigation.
As we stated in our earlier posts, mass surveillance is a matter of public concern for which Netzpolitik should be commended--not punished--for covering. We're glad the German government recognized this.
Netzpolitik noted in a recent post , the investigation of its sources remains pending--an investigation that threatens to chill future whistleblowing in Germany. Meister told EFF:
It's about time [the] ridiculous
investigation into us as journalists was dropped, but the investigations into our sources are supposed to go on. We demand an immediate end to all investigations into press and their whistleblowers. Whistleblowers are integral for investigative
journalism and they need protection not prosecution.
Love is a 2015 France / Belgium drama by Gaspar Noé. Starring Gaspar Noé, Aomi Muyock and Klara Kristin.
A sexual melodrama about a boy and a girl and another
girl. It's a love story, which celebrates sex in a joyous way.
The film complete with extensive, non-simulated sex scenes in 3D, seems fated to become the cause célèbre for an alleged new wave of prudishness in France.
complaint by a right-wing pressure group, a panel of judges ruled this week that the movie should be given an 18 age restriction, a rating in France that is reserved for pornography.
The director and the producer of Love say that the decision
reflects the increasing, censorious influence of the Catholic hard right in France. They have appealed to the state watchdog, the Conseil d'Etat .
After the Paris administrative court ruled that its over-16 classification should be
withdrawn, the movie's producer, Vincent Maraval, tweeted: "In France it is now forbidden to love if you are under the age of 18." In an interview with the newspaper Libération , he said:
We must now
wait for the ruling of the Conseil d'Etat . We will then know what kind of country France has become.
The legal challenge was made by a right-wing pressure group Promouvoir, which works to "promote Judeo-Christian values in all
areas of social life". A panel of judges decided this week that the "repetition" and "prominence" of non-simulated sex scenes was "likely to disturb the sensibility of minors".
They ordered that the film's
classification be raised to over 18.
Another French director, Jean-Paul Salomé, said that the ruling overturned France's traditionally liberal-minded system of film classification and left it open to "second guessing" by right-wing
groups and the courts. He added:
The decision is absurd at a time when anyone, minor or not, can easily find on the internet images far more traumatic than anything in Gaspar Noé's film.
Google has refused to comply with a French order that would apply the right to be forgotten to all worldwide domains, and not just European ones.
Google had responded to a European Court decision that seems to have made a law that says people
can arbitrarily demand that information that they do do not like should be hidden from Google Search.
Google applied this law by blocking searches on country specific URLs like google.fr in France and google.de in Germany, and not google.com.
Now Google has refused a court order demanding that the EU censorship be applied worldwide and appealed, calling the French court ruling a troubling development that risks serious chilling effects on the Web. Google explained, that complying
with the court risks encouraging other countries to tighten their grip on what users can and cannot view, beginning a race to the bottom in which the Internet would only be as free as the world's least free place.
argument is about proportionality. Some 97%, of French searches use google.fr, not google.com or other non-EU domains. In other words, forcing Google to apply this rule beyond European domains would accomplish very little, and potentially risk a great
The Washington Examiner noted:
This is an important development in a critical case. The scrutinizing of Google isn't an isolated phenomenon, and American firms (and politicians) concerned about legal and
regulatory challenges abroad would do well to pay attention as Google navigates the implementation of the right to be forgotten.
The European Union has launched an antitrust investigation against several large U.S. movie studios and Sky UK. The European Commission wants to abolish geographical restrictions and has sent a statement of objections over the geo-blocking practices of
six major US film studios including Disney, Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros.
Due to licensing agreements designed to encourage lucrative monopolies, many movies and TV-series are only available online in a few selected countries, often for a
limited period. The movie studios often restrict broadcasters and streaming services to make content widely available, a practice which the European Commission wants to stop.
Margrethe Vestager, EU Commissioner in charge of competition policy
European consumers want to watch the pay-TV channels of their choice regardless of where they live or travel in the EU. Our investigation shows that they cannot do this today, also because licensing agreements
between the major film studios and Sky UK do not allow consumers in other EU countries to access Sky's UK and Irish pay-TV services, via satellite or online.
The geo-blocking practices are a thorn in the side of the European
Commission who now hope to abolish these restrictions altogether. Under European rules consumers should be able to access the services of Sky and other service providers regardless of where they are located. At the moment, most online services block
access to content based on the country people are located, something Sky and the movie studios also agreed on.
The Commission plans to end unjustified geo-blocking, which it describes as a discriminatory practice used for commercial
Sky UK and the six major studios will now have to respond to the concerns.
A French MP has started the ball rolling on internet censorship on the grounds that children need to be protected from X-rated sites.
MP Jean-Jacques Candelier of the Democratic and Republican Left said that he'd had enough of the scourge of freely available online pornography. He wrote to Laurence Rossignol, the Secretary of State for the Family, Elderly People and Adult Care, asking for the government to introduce
an access code in France, meaning that adults who want to see pornographic content online must manually opt-in to gain entry.
Failing that, Candelier suggested a default blocking of all pornography online, a move he said was inspired by
David Cameron's controversial internet filters that came into effect in the UK last year.
The MP told France TV Info:
I don't condemn the existence of these sites, but they have to be reserved for adults. We
need to put in place a system of access codes that will be asked for every time someone tries to connect to these sites,
New rules for Internet providers across the European Union could eliminate adult website blocking in the U.K.
The telecoms single market rules, approved June 30, will go before the full European Parliament for a vote this fall. If the legislation gets
a green light, it will trump existing national laws. Censorship provision were more laterly debated in Council on July 8.
Despite the best efforts of UK Conservatives in the Parliament, the EU-wide regulation will put an end to Internet service
provider-level filters for adult content, which will mean new U.K. laws by the end of next year.
Currently in the U.K., the major ISPs give users the option to block pornography or gratuitous violence. Consumers are prompted to choose whether to
turn on the blocking filter when they first use their Internet connection.
While an exception for parental blocking tools was debated, it was not included in the final text.
As reported yesterday, Malta's Justice and Culture Minister Owen Bonnici has announced new amendments to censorship laws, which he said make good on the Labour Party's promises in opposition to prevent the further criminalisation of artists and
citizens based on archaic laws pertaining to obscenity.
Obscenity laws introduced in 1975 under a Labour government, which generically outlawed articles that unduly emphasised sex, crime, horror, cruelty and violence , will be repealed.
Pornography will now be defined as something which is made with the express aim to sexually arouse, and will be allowed to be distributed to adults, provided appropriate warnings will be given.
However examples of extreme pornography will be banned outright. These are defined as an act which threatens a person's life, an act which results in a person's severe injury, rape or a non-consensual sexual activity, sexual activity
involving a human corpse, and any act involving a person an animal.
Speaking to MaltaToday, Andrew Sciberras, part of the legal team charged with assembling the new law, ensured that strong defenses are in place for however falls foul of
these new amendments, and that each case will be allowed to be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Sciberras explained that the amendments are based on the British equivalent of the same laws, which he admitted were not without their
controversy . He was referring specifically to the extreme porn laws , which led to protests following their introduction in the UK in 2008.
This law has proven to be problematic when it comes to, for example, pornography of the
bondage-and-masochism (BDSM) genre, which while often suggestive of violent activity by definition, could also be presented in a fictionalized setting, and performed in a safe environment.
Sciberras added that in all cases, the context of the work
in question -- be it visual or a work of literature -- will be considered in context to determine whether its worth is solely pornographic or not
Love is a 2015 France / Belgium drama by Gaspar Noé. Starring Gaspar Noé, Aomi Muyock and Klara Kristin.
A sexual melodrama about a boy and a girl and another girl. It's a love story,
which celebrates sex in a joyous way.
Gaspar Noé's new film Love has been given a 16 rating in France, despite a government 'recommendation' that it should receive an 18 rating.
The 3D drama, which features explicit
sexual scenes, was originally rated 16, but the French culture minister Fleur Pellerin made the unusual move of interfering. Pellerin requested that there be a second review, given the sexual nature of the film. But despite this, the certificate remained
The French directors' guild also stood by Noé and criticised Pellerin. The group said in a statement:
We have nothing to gain from being in the game of conservatism and puritanism. The 'moralisation'
of works, the intimate friend of censorship, is a dangerous game. The filmmakers of ARP remain convinced that poetry, sexual as it is, [from] filmmaker Gaspar Noé, will remain a better educational source than that of porn debauchery permanently available
on the internet.
Note that the 16 certificate in France is used for films towards the strong end of violence, and for those featuring softcore or else non pornographic real sex. The French 18 rating is reserved for hardcore
pornography. UK 18 rated films not on the stronger end of the sex or violence spectrums are often 12 rated in France.
Wikipedia is campaigning against yet more censorial legislation from the EU. Wikepedia writes:
Absence of full Freedom of Panorama means we can't illustrate Wikipedia properly.
For more than a
decade, volunteers have compiled countless facts and contributed millions of hours to build Wikipedia. Photographers have donated hundreds of thousands of photos to illustrate the articles.
The reason Wikipedia can freely depict
public spaces in most of the countries in the European Union is that we enjoy full Freedom of Panorama . This is an exception to copyright that allows people
to make and use photographs of public spaces without restriction, while at the same time protecting the architect's or visual artist's rights.
Now, the free use of many of these images is in danger by a proposal in the
European Parliament . If the restrictive text accepted by the Legal Affairs Committee is adopted in the course of the upcoming EU legislative procedure on
copyright reform, hundreds of thousands of images on Wikipedia would no longer be free and thus would no longer belong in Wikipedia.
Less than a week after Iceland's prime minister contended that his nation's fundamental values would be at risk should the insurgent Pirate Party ever come to power, the group has celebrated its first legislative success, the decriminalization of
Birgitta Jonsdottir , one of three Pirates in the Althing, Iceland's Parliament, was among party activists celebrating the vote in favor of their bill to repeal the prohibition on impious irreverence, which had been in force since 1940.
The measure to repeal the law , which made ridiculing or insulting the dogmas or worship of a lawfully existing religious community an offense punishable by a fine or up to three months in jail, was introduced in January , in the wake of the
murderous attack in Paris on Charlie Hebdo.
While the vote was underway in the Althing, The Iceland Monitor reported , all three of the party's members took the floor to say, I am Charlie. After the bill was made law, the party said in a
statement , The Icelandic Parliament has issued the important message that freedom will not bow to bloody attacks.
The European Union has said an exception to net neutrality rules, covering spam filtering and blocking porn, was part of its new compromise deal.
The deal included four instances when net neutrality rules need not be applied.
One of the
four exceptions was filtering spam as well as allowing parents to set up parental filters that block pornography or gratuitous violence from children.
However, the commission now admits that this exemption was announced before it was actually
The three other exceptions were the blocking of illegal content; preventing the misuse of networks, for instance viruses, malware or denial of service attacks; and finally to minimise network congestion that is temporary or exceptional