A leaked document from the European Union reveals that the EU presidency is calling for massive internet censorship and filtering.
European Digital Rights (EDRi) reported on Wednesday that a Council of the European Union document leaked by Statewatch on August 30 reveals that Estonia, which is currently seated as the EU Presidency, has been pushing other member states to adopt all manner of internet surveillance.
The proposals, if adopted, call for European countries to follow in China’s footsteps regarding online censorship.
The directive calls on the EU to enact even stricter copyright laws, which EDRi says pushes pre-existing terms “further into the realms of illegality.”
The text contains “two options for each of the two most controversial proposals: the so-called ‘link tax’ or ancillary copyright, and the upload filter.” EDRi says both directives would be harmful to a free and open Internet.
The proposals are suggested as alternatives for 2014 legislation already introduced in Germany and Spain dubbed the “link tax,” (also known as the “Google tax”) which has the potential to undermine access to public domain works. The concept behind the tax was to charge online news sites that publish news snippets, such as Google News, to pay a fee for every publication they aggregate.
Option A maintains the Commission’s original proposal of having in place an upload filter which will be under the control of platforms and other companies that are hosting online content. Although it removes mentions to “content recognition technologies”, in reality, there is no way to “prevent the availability” (another expression which remains in the text) of certain content without scanning all the content first.
Option B is, at best, a more extreme version of Option A. In fact, it seems so extreme that it almost makes the first option look like a reasonable compromise. This may, of course, be the “diplomatic” strategy. In this extreme option, the text attacks again the liability regime of the e-commerce Directive – which, bizarrely, would not be repealed, leaving us with two contradictory pieces of EU law but adds a “clarification” of what constitutes a “communication to the public”. This clarification establishes that platforms (and its users) would be liable for the copyright infringing content uploaded by its users.
In other words, platforms like Twitter or YouTube could be held responsible for each and every piece of content uploaded by their users. Demanding that these websites vet each and every piece of content would not only cost too much, it is also impossible to do manually — even for tech giants.
Ian Miles Cheong is a journalist and outspoken media critic. You can reach him through social media at @stillgray on Twitter and on Facebook.