Brussels may threaten social media companies with censorship laws unless they move urgently to tackle supposed 'fake
news' and Cambridge Analytica-style data abuse.
The EU security commissioner, Julian King, said short-term, concrete plans needed to be in place before the elections, when voters in 27 EU member states will elect MEPs.
Under King's ideas, social media companies would sign a voluntary code of conduct to prevent the misuse of platforms to pump out misleading information.
The code would include a pledge for greater transparency, so users would be made aware why their Facebook or Twitter feed was presenting them with certain adverts or stories. Another proposal is for political adverts to be accompanied with
information about who paid for them.
The European Commission has outlined new requirements for telecoms companies, clouds, email service providers, and
operators of messaging apps, to produce snooping data on a specified individual within six hours of a rquest.
The proposed European Production Order will allow a judicial authority in one Member State to request electronic evidence (such as emails, text or messages in apps) directly from internet companies with an office in any Member State. The data may
be nominally held overseas but will still have to be produced.
That super-short deadline will only be imposed in the case of an emergency. Less urgent investigations have been offered a ten-day deadline.
A European Preservation Order will also be issued to stop service providers deleting data.
The Production Orders will be applicable only to crimes punishable with a maximum sentence of at least three years, but governments have been artificially increasing maximum sentences for quite a while now to ensure that relatively minor crimes
can be classed as 'serious'.
The EU Commission has cited terrorism as the justifications for the new requirements, but a 3 year maximum sentence rather suggests that the these orders will be used for more widely than just for terrorism prevention.
A Berlin court has issued an injunction ordering Facebook not to block a user and not to delete a comment
The order appears to be the first such court intervention against censorship in Germany.
Last year a new law called the Network Enforcement Act (NetzDG) came into effect that effectively frces Facebook to over censor just in case it gets hit by ludicrously large fines. And it was an example of this over reaction by Facebook that is
being challenged in court
The comment in question was placed by Gabor B under a Basler Zeitung article that referenced anti-immigrant statements by Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister. The Germans are becoming ever more stupid, Gabor B's comment, posted in January,
read. No wonder, since they are every day littered with fake news from the left-wing Systemmedien about 'skilled workers', declining unemployment rates or Trump.
When Facebook removed his comment and hit him with a 30-day account suspension, Gabor B retained conservative Hamburg lawyer Joachim SteinhŲfel who is well known for taking on free-expression cases and is running something of a crusade against
what he sees as Facebook's overenthusiastic application of the NetzDG.
The EU is mooting a new copyright regime for the largest market in the world, and the Commissioners
who are drafting the new rules are completely captured by the entertainment industry, to the extent that they have ignored their own experts and produced a farcical Big Content wishlist that includes the most extensive internet censorship regime
the world has ever seen, perpetual monopolies for the biggest players, and a ban on European creators using Creative Commons licenses to share their works.
Since these filter systems are incredibly expensive to create and operate, anyone who wants to get into business competing with the companies that grew large without having to create systems like these will have to source hundreds of millions in
capital before they can even enter the market. Youtube 2018 can easily afford Content ID; Youtube 2005 would have been bankrupted if they'd had to build it.
And then there's the matter of banning Creative Commons licenses.
In order to bail out the largest newspapers in the EU, the Commission is proposing a Link Tax -- a fee that search engines and sites like Boing Boing will have to pay just for the right to link to news stories on the web. This idea has been tried
before in Spain and Germany and the newspapers who'd called for it quickly admitted it wasn't working and stopped using it.
But the new, worse-than-ever Link Tax contains a new wrinkle: rightsholders will not be able to waive the right to be compensated under the Link Tax. That means that European creators -- who've released hundreds of millions of works under Creative
Commons licenses that allow for free sharing without fee or permission -- will no longer be able to choose the terms of a Creative Commons license; the inalienable, unwaivable right to collect rent any time someone links to your creations will
invalidate the core clause in these licenses.
Europeans can write to their MEPs and the European Commission using this joint Action Centre
; please act before it's too late.
The European Copyright Directive was enacted in 2001 and is now woefully out of date. Thanks in large part to the work of Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda, many good ideas for updating European copyright law were put forward in a report of the
European Parliament in July 2015. The European Commission threw out most of these ideas, and instead released a legislative proposal in October 2016 that focused on giving new powers to publishers. That proposal was referred to several of the
committees of the European Parliament, with the Parliament's Legal Affairs (JURI) Committee taking the lead.
As the final text must also be accepted by the Council of the European Union (which can be considered as the second part of the EU's bicameral legislature), the Council Presidency has recently been weighing in with its own "compromise"
proposals (although this is something of a misnomer, as they do little to improve the Commission's original text, and in some respects make it worse). Not to be outdone, German MEP (Member of the European Parliament) Axel Voss last month
introduced a new set of his own proposals [PDF] for "compromise," which are somehow worse still. Since Voss leads the JURI committee, this is a big problem.
A loss of trust in Facebook in the light of the Cambridge Analytica scandal could prompt the EU to
scrap its voluntary code of conduct on the removal of online hate speech in favour of legislation and heavy sanctions, European commission Vera JourovŠ said.
The EU's executive is examining how to have hateful content censored swiftly by social media platforms, with legislation being one option that could replace the current system.
JJourovŠ said she would be grilling Sheryl Sandberg , Facebook's chief operating officer, later this week over unanswered questions about the company's past errors and future plans.
Jourove said she was wary of following the German path, because of the thin line between removing offensive material and censorship, but said all options were on the table.
The European Commission proposes designating internet censors, which it euphemistically calls 'trusted flaggers', and then requiring internet hosting companies to censor whatever the 'trusted flaggers' say
The EU Commission has recommended an internet censorship decision sounding like something straight out of China. The
system consists of designating police, state censors, commercial censors acting for the state, and perhaps independent groups like the IWF. These are euphemistically known as trusted flaggers.
Website and content hosting companies will then be required to remove any content (nominally illegal content) in a timely manner.
The IWF usefully summarises the proposals as follows:
The EU Commission's proposals to tackle illegal content online include:
Hosting providers and Member States being prepared to submit all monitoring information to the Commission, upon request, within six months (three months for terrorist content) in order for the Commission to assess whether
further legislation is required.
Recommends introducing definitions for "illegal content" and "trusted flaggers".
Fast track procedures should be introduced for materials referred by trusted flaggers.
Hosting providers to publish a list of who they consider to be a "trusted flagger".
Automated takedown of content is encouraged, but should have safeguards such as human oversight.
Terrorist content should be removed within one hour.
Over the last few years the European Union has been working on revising its rules on copyright . But the latest
proposal from the head of the copyright committee would deny creators the right to refuse remuneration -- the right to share a work without getting paid -- which could undermine the use of CC licenses if approved.
Ever since the European Commission released a lackluster draft Directive on copyright in 2016, Creative Commons, Communia Association , and dozens of other organisations have been engaging policymakers in the Parliament to make crucial changes in
order to protect user rights and the commons, enable research and education, and promote creativity and business opportunities in the digital market.
But as evidenced by the latest proposal, the direction of the copyright reform seems to be getting worse, not better. This week Axel Voss, the lead member of the European parliament (MEP) for the influential legal affairs committee, released his
own proposed changes to an especially controversial part of the draft Directive, Article 11. This is the provision that would introduce an additional right for press publishers to extract fees from news aggregators for incorporating short snippets
of--or even linking to--their content.
This press publisher's right (also commonly known as the "Link Tax") already poses a significant threat to an informed and literate society. But Voss wants to amplify its worst features by asserting that press publishers will
receive--whether they like it or not--an "inalienable right to obtain an [sic] fair and proportionate remuneration for such uses." This means that publishers will be required to demand payment from news aggregators.
This inalienable right directly conflicts with publishers who wish to share freely and openly using Creative Commons licenses. As we've warned before , an unwaivable right to compensation would interfere with the operation of open licensing by
reserving a special and separate economic right above and beyond the intention of some publishers. For example, the Spanish news site eldiario.es releases all of their content online for free under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike
license . By doing so, they are granting to the public a worldwide, royalty-free license to use the work under certain terms. Other news publishers in Europe using CC licenses that could also find themselves swept up under this new provision
include La Stampa , 20 Minutos , and openDemocracy .
Forcing publishers who use CC to accept additional inalienable rights to be remunerated violates the letter and spirit of Creative Commons licensing and denies publishers the freedom to conduct business and share content as they wish. The proposal
would pose an existential threat to the over 1.3 billion CC-licensed works online, shared freely by hundreds of millions of creators from around the world.
We support authors and creators, and we firmly believe in their right to choose to share, or to seek compensation for all or some uses of their works. At the same time, we must find solutions that also honor those au thors who choose to share with
few or no restrictions.
Voss' proposal must be rejected, and Article 11 should be deleted . It's been clear all along that an additional right for press publishers won't do much of anything to support quality journalism or grow the digital single market. Instead, it will
negatively affect access to information and the ability for publishers to share using the platforms, technologies, and terms beneficial to them.