The European Commission has drafted new laws to force ISPs to block child porn. The measure will be voted on by the European
Parliament next month. The technical solutions envisaged are broadly based on arrangements in the UK, where all major ISPs block access to child abuse websites named on a list maintained by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF).
If the laws are passed as proposed, the UK government will get powers to force the small ISPs who do not use the IWF blocklist – who serve less than 2% of British internet users – to fall into line. Last year the Home Office abandoned
a pledge to enforce 100% compliance.
Although voluntary, the British system is not without controversy, and EuroISPA, the European ISP trade association, is lobbying MEPs to reject the move to enforce it across the bloc.
Malcolm Hutty, the President of EuroISPA, said: In order to make the Directive on child sexual exploitation as strong as possible, emphasis must be placed on making swift notice and takedown of child sexual abuse material
focused and effective. Blocking, as an inefficient measure, should be avoided. Law enforcement authorities' procedures for rapid communication to internet hosting providers of such illegal material must be reviewed and bottlenecks eliminated.
Cecilia Malmstrom, the European commissioner for home affairs, is worried that MEPs' amendments to a draft directive on the sexual abuse and exploitation of children would make it more difficult for EU member states to block access to websites carrying
The European Parliament's civil liberties committee is to vote on the European Commission's proposal and MEPs' amendments on 14th February.
At present, it is up to member states whether they want to block websites such content. The Commission is seeking to introduce an obligation on all member states to block access in cases where their removal is impossible.
A majority of member states back the mandatory blocking of internet sites but the measure has run into trouble with MEPs. Germany, Ireland and Luxembourg have also openly rejected the measure.
Some of the hundreds of amendments to the draft regulation put forward by MEPs would introduce EU-wide rules that would make it more difficult for member states to continue blocking websites. Many MEPs are concerned about the implications of website
blocking for freedom of speech.
I am a liberal, I consider free speech as a fundamental value and I have fought for that all my life, so accusations that I'm trying to censor the internet and limit freedom of speech really go to my heart because that is absolutely not what I'm
trying to do, Malmstro m said. But I have seen those pictures; they have nothing to do with freedom of speech. This is a horrible violation.
She also rejected the slippery-slope argument -- the notion that once the EU imposed rules on blocking access to one type of website, it could do so for other types in the future. I intend in no way to propose any other type of blocking for any other
thing, but this particular crime demands particular attention.
The European parliament's civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee (LIBE) will meet in Strasbourg tomorrow, when it is expected to approve a controversial measure that would compel EU member states to inform internet publishers that their
images are to be deleted from the internet or blocked for reasons of child pornography.
Publishers will also have to be informed of their right to appeal against any removal or blocking.
The measure would make the UK's system for blocking and removing child pornography without informing the publisher illegal.
MEPs seem more concerned with the rights of child pornographers than they do with the rights of children who have been sexually abused to make their foul, illegal images, said John Carr, the secretary of the Children's Charities Coalition on
Internet Safety (And an adviser to the UK government on child internet safety!)
Surely it is non-child porn publishers that can appeal. If they can show that their sites are legal then it is absolutely correct that they should be able to prove their point.
On the other hand, child pornographers would simply have no case on which to make an appeal, their material is illegal, and will stay removed or blocked.
The EU has taken a step towards common rules against those who sexually abuse children and post images of the abuse on the internet.
A committee of Euro MPs backed an EU draft directive calling for child abuse images to be removed at source.
Where removal is impossible - for example, because web pages are hosted outside the EU - then the abuse images may be blocked by national authorities.
MEPs aim to adopt the new rules later this year, after further negotiations.
MEPs insisted that any moves to block access to images on the web must be accompanied by transparent procedures and provide adequate safeguards so that the restriction is limited to what is necessary and proportionate .
The safeguards would include informing users of the reason for the block and informing content providers and users of their right to appeal.
The European Court of Justice has given a preliminary opinion that will have far-reaching implications in the fight against
overaggressive copyright monopoly abusers. It is not a final verdict, but the Advocate General's position; the Court generally follows this. The Advocate General says that no ISP can be required to filter the Internet, and particularly not to enforce
the copyright monopoly.
The opinion is very clear: Advocate General Cruz Villalon considers that the installation of that filtering and blocking system is a restriction on the right to respect for the privacy of communications and the right to protection of personal data,
both of which are rights protected under the Charter of Fundamental Rights. By the same token, the deployment of such a system would restrict freedom of information, which is also protected by the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
Broadband providers have voiced alarm over an EU proposal to create a Great Firewall of Europe by blocking illicit web material
at the borders of the bloc.
The proposal emerged an obscure meeting of the Council of the European Union's Law Enforcement Work Party (LEWP), a forum for cooperation on issues such as counter terrorism, customs and fraud.
The minutes from the meeting state:
The Presidency of the LEWP presented its intention to propose concrete measures towards creating a single secure European cyberspace with a certain virtual Schengen border and virtual access points whereby
the Internet Service Providers (ISP) would block illicit contents on the basis of the EU black-list . Delegations were also informed that a conference on cyber-crime would be held in Budapest on 12-13 April 2011.
Malcolm Hutty, head of public affairs at LINX, a cooperative of British ISPs, said the plan appeared ill thought-out and confused . We take the view that network level filtering of the type proposed has been proven ineffective.
Broadband providers say that illegal content should be removed at the source by cooperation between police and web hosting firms because network blocking can easily be circumvented.
The Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) of the European Parliament has adopted a compromise text agreed with the Council and the Commission on the draft Child Sexual Exploitation Directive. The compromise text allows Member
States to introduce mandatory blocking measures for Internet sites containing child abuse images, but does not require them as the Council had proposed.
Article 21: Measures against websites containing or disseminating child pornography:
Member States shall take the necessary measures to ensure the prompt removal of webpages containing or disseminating child pornography hosted in their territory and to endeavour to obtain the removal of such pages hosted outside of
Member States may take measures to block access to webpages containing or disseminating child pornography towards the Internet users in their territory. These measures 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 shall also include the possibility of judicial redress.
Civil liberties groups will be pleased at having defeated mandatory blocking across Europe, but disappointed at having failed to ensure that judicial authority is required before an ISP can be forced to block an Internet address.
The draft Directive is due to be adopted in the Autumn.
The European Parliament has approved new rules that will implement tough penalties for offences related to child porn online. The resolution was adopted by the European Parliament with 541 votes in favor and two against.
The directive will require EU countries to remove child porn websites or allow them to block access to those pages. EU member states will have two years to make the rules into national law.
The new rules will outline requirements on prevention, prosecution of offenders and protection of victims and
Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection Executive Director Tim Henning said:
It covers all the major bases and will make it less difficult for EU authorities to prosecute these heinous crimes against children. It will also help to reduce the proliferation and consumption of child pornography content.
But he noted one troubling aspect of blocking suspected website pages:
This needs to be completely transparent in order to prevent EU territories from blocking legal adult entertainment that may be mistaken for illegal child porn. The directive has stated this will be the case.
The rules set out penalties for about 20 criminal offenses. For instance, coercing a child into sexual actions or forcing a child into prostitution will be punishable by at least 10 years in prison. Child pornography producers will face at least 3 years,
and viewers of online child pornography will face at least 1 year.
The Council of the EU has adopted a directive aimed at combating sexual abuse and exploitation of children as well as child
The directive will harmonise around twenty relevant criminal offences, at the same time setting high level of penalties.
The new rules which have to be transposed into national law within two years also include provisions to fight against online child pornography and sex tourism. They also aim to prevent convicted paedophiles moving to another EU member state from exercising
professional activities involving regular contacts with children. Finally, the directive introduces measures to protect the child victim during investigations and legal proceedings.
Concerning online child pornography, the text obliges member states to ensure the prompt removal of such websites hosted in their territory and to endeavour to obtain their removal if hosted outside of their territory.
In addition, member states may block access to such web pages, but must follow transparent procedures and provide safeguards if they make use of this possibility.
Job vetting will also extend to a European wide level with a reliable check for EU nationals when applying for jobs related to the care of children. In addition, within the EU, higher protection of children will be achieved once member states implement
the directive and fully commit themselves to circulate data on disqualifications from their criminal records. It is currently very difficult to clear foreign EU nationals when applying for jobs related to the care of children.
In legal advice to the EU Court of Justice, Advocate General Pedro Cruz Villalon has announced that EU law allows for ISPs to be ordered to block their customers from accessing known copyright infringing sites.
The opinion, which relates to a dispute between a pair of movie companies and an Austrian ISP over the now-defunct site Kino.to, is not legally binding. However, the advice of the Advocate General is usually followed in such cases.
The current dispute involves Austrian ISP UPC Telekabel Wien and movie companies Constantin Film Verleih and Wega Filmproduktionsgesellschaft. The film companies complained that the ISP was providing its subscribers with access to Kino.to which enabled
them to access their copyrighted material without permission.
Interim injunctions were granted in the movie companies' favor which required the ISP to block the site. However, the Austrian Supreme Court later issued a request to the Court of Justice to clarify whether a provider that provides Internet access to
those using an illegal website were to be regarded as an intermediary, in the same way that the host of an illegal site might.
In his opinion, Advocate General Pedro Cruz Villalon said that the ISP of a user accessing a website said to be infringing copyright should also be regarded as an intermediary whose services are used by a third party, such as the operator of an
infringing website. This means that the ISP of an infringing site user can be subjected to a blocking injunction, as long as it contain specifics on the technicalities.
The European Parliament is currently considering EU wide website blocking powers.
The latest draft of the directive on combating terrorism contains proposals on blocking websites that promote or incite terror attacks. Member states may take all necessary measures to remove or to block access to webpages publicly inciting to commit
terrorist offences, says text submitted by German MEP and rapporteur Monika Hohlmeier.
Digital rights activists have argued that it leaves the door wide open to over-blocking and censorship as safeguards defending proportionality and fundamental rights can be skipped if governments opt for voluntary schemes implemented by ISPs.
Amendments have been proposed that would require any take down or Web blocking to be subject to full judicial oversight and rubber stamping.
Last week, Estonian MEP Marju Lauristin told Ars she was very disappointed with the text, saying it was jeopardising freedom of expression as enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of EU.
The measure will be up for a vote by the civil liberties committee on 27th June.
ISPs that block access to websites with adult content or block ads could be breaking EU guidelines on net neutrality even if customers opt in. EU regulations only allow providers to block content for three reasons: to comply with a member state's laws,
to manage levels of traffic across a network, or for security.
Blocking websites with adult content has no clear legal framework in UK legislation, and providers have relied on providing the ability to opt in to protect themselves from falling foul of the rules. However, an update to guidelines issued by EU body
Berec says that even if a person indicates they want certain content to be blocked, it should be done on their device, rather than at a network level. The updated guidelines say:
With regard to some of the suggestions made by stakeholders about traffic management features that could be requested or controlled by end-users, Berec notes that the regulation does not consider that end-user consent enables ISPs to engage in such
practices at the network level.
End-users may independently choose to apply equivalent features, for example via their terminal equipment or more generally on the applications running at the terminal equipment, but Berec considers that management of such features at the network level
would not be consistent with the regulation.
Frode Sorensen, co-chair of the Berec expert working group on net neutrality said the updated guidance made it clear that it had found no legal basis for using customer choice to justify blocking any content without national legislation or for reasons of
traffic management or security.
David Cameron said in October last year that he had secured an opt-out from the rules enabling British internet providers to introduce porn filters. However, Sorensen said he was not aware of any opt-out, and the net neutrality rules introduced in
November, after Cameron made his claim, said they applied to the whole European Economic Area which includes the UK.
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.