Social 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.
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
). 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
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
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.
Members of the European Parliament have approved extraordinary measures to censor speakers accused of hate speech.
MEPs granted the parliament's president authority to pull the plug on live broadcasts of parliamentary debate deemed to include racist speech and to purge any such material from online records.
Inevitably the rules are vaguely worded and will be manipulated or used as a tool of censorship. Tom Weingaertner, president of the Brussels-based International Press Association commented:
This undermines the reliability of the Parliament's archives at a moment where the suspicion of 'fake news' and manipulation threatens the credibility of the media and the politicians.
However the censorship has some British support. Richard Corbett, a Labour MEP who backed the rule said:
There have been a growing number of cases of politicians saying things that are beyond the pale of normal parliamentary discussion and debate,
What if this became not isolated incidents, but specific, where people could say: 'Hey, this is a fantastic platform. It's broad, it's live-streamed. It can be recorded and repeated. Let's use it for something more vociferous, more spectacular
Rule 165 of the parliament's rules of procedure allows the chair of debates to halt the live broadcast in the case of defamatory, racist or xenophobic language or behavior by a member. The would also be a fine for transgressors of around 9,000
The new rule, which was not made public by the assemble until it was reported by Spain's La Vanguardia newspaper, offending material could be deleted from the audiovisual record of proceedings, meaning citizens would never know it happened unless
reporters were in the room.
Weingaertner said the IPA was never consulted on that.
The European Parliament has officially adopted the EU Directive on Combatting Terrorism , which is designed to give police and
prosecutors across the EU the ability to fight and counter terrorism more effectively and ensure a common response to the evolving terrorist threat.
The Directive includes measures against public provocation online , which state that Member States must ensure the prompt removal of online content constituting a public provocation to commit a terrorist offence that is hosted in their
territory, and must also endeavour to obtain the removal of such content hosted outside of their territory. If removing the content is not feasible, Member States may block access to the content for internet users within their territory (but only
after first attempting to remove the content at source).
The Directive states that such measures of removal and blocking must be set by transparent procedures and provide adequate safeguards, in particular to ensure that the restriction is limited to what is necessary and proportionate, and that users are
informed of the reason for the restriction. These safeguards must also include the possibility of judicial redress.
Importantly, the Directive also states that removal or blocking of terrorist content should be without prejudice to service providers' protections under the EU e-Commerce Directive. This means that no general obligation can be imposed on service
providers to monitor the information which they transmit or store, nor can they be obliged to actively seek facts or circumstances indicating the presence of terrorist content. Furthermore, hosting service providers will not be held liable
for hosting terrorist content as long as they do not have actual knowledge of illegal activity or information and are not aware of the facts or circumstances from which the activity or information is apparent. This will be of great relief to
The Directive must now be transposed into national law by Member States within 18 months. However, it will not apply to the UK, Ireland and Denmark who have opted out of such measures.
The European Union agreed Tuesday on new rules allowing subscribers of online services in one E.U. country access to them
while traveling in another.
The new portability ruling is the first step of regulation under a drive by the European Commission to introduce a single digital market in Europe.
Announced in May 2015, the proposed Digital Single Market was met with full-throated opposition from Hollywood and Europe's movie and TV industry, which viewed it as a threat to its territory-by-territory licensing of movies and TV shows.
The European Commission, the European Parliament and the E.U.'s Council of Ministers all agreed to new laws which will allow consumers to fully use their online subscriptions to films, sports events, e-books, video games or music services when traveling
within the E.U.
The online service providers will have nine months to adapt to the new rules, which means will come into force by the beginning of 2018.
Germany has decided to abolish a law which censors criticism of foreign leaders.
After the spectacular attempt at censorship by Turkey's president Erdogan, international heads of state will no longer be able to ask the German government to prosecute people deemed to have offended them under an obscure passage of German law.
Comic Jan Boehmermann sparked a diplomatic row between Ankara and Berlin when his insulting and satircal poem aired on German television last March. It described Erdogan as stupid, cowardly and uptight before descending into sexual references and
language later described by judges in Hamburg as abusive and libellous content . The outraged Turkish leader filed a complaint with German prosecutors on the basis of lese majeste.
German ministers have now agreed to scrap a line of the penal code known as lese majeste , which prohibits insulting the representatives of international governments. Justice Minister Heiko Maas called the law outdated and unnecessary .
The idea of lese majesty arose in an era long gone by. It no longer belongs in our criminal law.
The Bundestag lower house still has to confirm the law change.
Insulted foreign leaders can still pursue their own libel and defamation cases, in the same way as anyone else.
French authorities ordered the blockage or removal of more than 2,700 websites in 2016, Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux announced. He said
that his government has requested blocks for 834 websites and that 1,929 more be pulled from search engines' results as part of the fight against child pornographic and terrorist content. He said:
To face an extremely serious terror threat, we've given ourselves unprecedented means to reinforce the efficacy of our actions.
Perhaps to obscure censorship details, Le Roux unhelpfully didn't detail any stats on what type of websites were blocked.
French authorities can block sites without a judge's order under a 2011 law that was brought into effect in after jihadist attacks killed 17 people at a satirical magazine and a kosher supermarket.
Young people in France will soon be allowed to watch real sex scenes at the cinema, as the government relaxes its film classification laws.
Culture minister Audrey Azoulay is set to announce that under-18s will no longer be automatically blocked from seeing a film that contains non-simulated sex. The 18 certificate will now only be automatically applied to films that include sex or violence
that could seriously hurt the sensitivity of minors , the ministry of culture said.
It's believed Ms Azoulay will bring in the change, which overturns a decree from 2003, by early February before she leaves office.
France's cinema classification board was last summer forced to slap an over 18 rating on the 2015 film Love after a lawsuit from a far-right group, which complained about its 3D-animated non-simulated sex scenes in Gaspar Noe's Love .
Presumably films such as Love and Lars von Trier's Nymphomaniac will now be 16 rated. The French 18 rating has, before this hiccup been reserved for hardcore pornography.
For weeks, the German and international public sphere has been bombarded with a campaign
against so-called fake news. Now Der Spiegel is reporting that the government now wants to establish a Defence Centre against Misinformation , a type of censorship and propaganda agency.
The Defence Centre will be set up in the Federal Press Office under Steffen Seibert. The new centre is supposed to strengthen the political power of defence of the population and force social networks such as Facebook, Google and Twitter to
censor content posted by users.
The acceptance of a post-factual age would amount to political capitulation, an internal paper quoted by Der Spiegel said. The paper insisted that authentic political communication remains crucial for the 21 century as well.
Accordingly, wide-reaching measures would have to be formulated to deal with the disinformation campaign, fake news and the manipulation of public opinion.
The World Socialist Web Site notes:
In reality the plans for an Orwellian Truth Ministry have nothing to do with concerns about false news reports. Instead, the established parties, the state media and private media corporations fear that they are losing their monopoly on public opinion.
The Internet has provided millions of people with the possibility, for the first time, of obtaining access to information that has not been selected and filtered by the official media. This has been behind the fear in the media and political parties.
The ruling class is reacting to growing social tensions and political discontent in the same way it has in the past: with police, prosecution and the suppression of free speech.
Maybe German politicians are just panicking about the unpopularity of their free-for-all immigration and refugee policy.
The German publisher of a special annotated edition of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf says sales have soared since its launch a year ago.
About 85,000 German-language copies have been sold. Publisher Andreas Wirsching said the figures overwhelmed us . At the end of January the publisher will launch a sixth print run.
Unlike the Nazi-era editions, this edition of Mein Kampf (My Struggle) has a plain white cover - without a picture of Hitler, and includes copious notes by scholars.
The BBC adds the 'balance' that 85,00 copies does not make the book a runaway hit . The BBC's Damien McGuinness in Berlin writes:
The fact that the Nazi manifesto reached number one in Der Spiegel's non-fiction charts in April is cited as evidence that Adolf Hitler's propaganda is making a comeback in Germany.
For a German non-fiction book sales of 85,000 are not bad. But the figures don't indicate a runaway hit. The current biggest non-fiction seller is The Hidden Life of Trees, a book about the ecosystem of woodland, which has sold half a million
copies so far.
A Czech unit set up to censor 'fake news' ahead of the country's two elections starts operations on Sunday.
The Center Against Terrorism and Hybrid Threats, a department of the Interior Ministry, plans to rebut disinformation supposedly produced to manipulate elections by what the counter-intelligence community believes are Russian-backed websites.
President Milos Zeman likened the ministry's efforts to censorship in his annual Christmas speech.
However the Interior Ministry says that the news censor has neither a button to turn off the internet nor the right to remove content.