European Parliament calls for automated and private censorship of the Web for security purposes

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As we feared last Monday, European Parliament has just adopted a Report pushing for the outsourcing of Web censorship to Facebook and Google, using the pretext of the fight against terrorism.

This Report suggests, among numerous others recommendations, that it would be necessary to “achieve automatic detection and systematic, fast, permanent and full removal of terrorist content online” and to prevent “the re-upload of already removed content”. The text specifies that it “welcomes the Commission’s legislative proposal on preventing the dissemination of terrorist content online”, “calls on the co-legislators to urgently work on the proposal” and “invites the Member States to put in place national measures if the adoption of legislation is delayed” (§47).

Three amendments would have allowed the European Parliament to stand out from the willingness of Emmanuel Macron and the European Commission to submit the whole Web to the surveillance and automated censorship tools provided by Facebook and Google, as we have denounced it with 58 others organisations.

A first amendment proposed that the censorship of “terrorist content” could not be “automatic” ; this amendment has been rejected by 311 votes against 269 (77 abstentions). A second amendment proposed that this censorship could not imply an active “detection” of content, nor a “systematic and fast” removal ; it has been rejected by 533 votes against 119 (4 abstentions). A third amendment proposed that platforms should not have an obligation “to remove [the content] fully” ; it has been rejected by 534 votes against 105 (14 abstentions).

The majority of the Members of Parliament therefore echoes the decision adopted last week by European governments to impose a mass, automated and private censorship of the Web (read our article).

The Report adopted today provides for mere “recommendations”: it is only a declaration of principle with no legal effect. However, it suggests that the European Parliament has already given up all ambitions to defend our freedoms against the security arguments that motivated the European Commission to propose its Antiterrorism Censorship Regulation, which will be debated by the European Parliament in the coming weeks.

Today’s vote is all the more worrying as it comes after yesterday’s shooting in Strasbourg, in the city where the European Parliament sits. Rather than postponing this vote the Members of European Parliaments (MEPs) decided to adopt the text immediately1Nathalie Griesbeck (ALDE), president of the TERR Commission, has explained that she had thought about reporting the vote following yesterday’s attack but had finally considered that this event could be a justification for the adoption of the text.. Some have even pointed yesterday’s attack to justify their willingness of more security2Among the Members having made a link between the attack of yesterday in Strasbourg and the Report adopted today, we can quote: Monika Hohlmeier (EPP), co-rapporteure on this text, who has declared after the vote : « Yesterday’s attack on the Christmas market in Strasbourg was an attack on European citizens and the common EU values and principles in the worst possible way. The incident has shown us again that we need to leave empty slogans and unrealistic measures behind and concentrate our activities on what really makes Europe safe. […] This means […] more prevention measures against radicalisation […] ». Frédérique Ries (ALDE), on Twitter. Julian King, the European Commissioner for the Security Union, has stated on Twitter : “Solidarity this morning with all those affected by the odious attack in #Strasbourg. The work we’re doing to support the authorities to tackle radicalisation, help victims and reinforce security is as relevant as ever”.. They invoke a “risk of islamist terrorism” while the perpetrator has not been arrested yet and the investigation has only just begun.

As usual, and unfortunately, the time for appeasement and reflexion, even mourning, has been neglected to carry on the forced march to security measures that our governments have been pursuing for years, by pretending to defend democracy against totalitarianism. While doing the opposite.

From now on, debates at the European Parliament will be directly about the Antiterrorism Censorship Regulation. You can read our last analysis about this text, which will be our main subject in the next months.

References   [ + ]

1. Nathalie Griesbeck (ALDE), president of the TERR Commission, has explained that she had thought about reporting the vote following yesterday’s attack but had finally considered that this event could be a justification for the adoption of the text.
2. Among the Members having made a link between the attack of yesterday in Strasbourg and the Report adopted today, we can quote: Monika Hohlmeier (EPP), co-rapporteure on this text, who has declared after the vote : « Yesterday’s attack on the Christmas market in Strasbourg was an attack on European citizens and the common EU values and principles in the worst possible way. The incident has shown us again that we need to leave empty slogans and unrealistic measures behind and concentrate our activities on what really makes Europe safe. […] This means […] more prevention measures against radicalisation […] ». Frédérique Ries (ALDE), on Twitter. Julian King, the European Commissioner for the Security Union, has stated on Twitter : “Solidarity this morning with all those affected by the odious attack in #Strasbourg. The work we’re doing to support the authorities to tackle radicalisation, help victims and reinforce security is as relevant as ever”.