Letter to MEPs: Do Not Enable Censorship within the EU
Paris, 20 June 2016 — The undersigned civil society organisations are deeply concerned about the Directive on combating terrorism and the European Commission's initiatives that could enable and encourage needless or even counter-productive censorship, both by platforms and by governments, without judicial oversight. The NGOs sign a joint letter to Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to urge them to avoid making this mistake.
You will soon be voting on the Directive on combating terrorism which contains several measures that will lead to dangerous infringements of freedom of expression. Although this was not the original purpose of the European Commission's proposal, the rapporteur, Monika Hohlmeier is now tabling "compromise amendments" that would encourage Member States to take "all necessary measures to remove or to block access to web pages publicly inciting to commit terrorist offences". These measures do not contain any meaningful safeguards for the protection of freedom of expression. Indeed, the minimal safeguards that are included can be easily circumvented by "voluntary" restrictions imposed by Internet companies.
Similar measures were implemented in France 18 months ago. They have proven to be inefficient and counter-productive. The Council of Europe published a study on 1st June 2016 underlining its concerns for freedom of expression in France and other European countries.
It is very important now for MEPs to stop this drift towards counter-productive restrictions on fundamental rights and, instead, engage in a real debate and demand an impact assessment to evaluate the alleged value of the measure while protecting universal rights. If the importance of combating terrorism and terrorist propaganda is acknowledged by all, it is essential that measures to address this problem are effective and proportionate measures - while ensuring that restrictions on our fundamental freedoms are offset by very strong procedural safeguards, such as a right of appeal and judicial oversight.
Furthermore, we have repeatedly seen that it is far too easy for measures ostensibly aimed at improving people' security to cross the line and undermine our liberties. We see this from the French example, evidenced by the thousands who protested against the French surveillance laws last year. Today, it is of the utmost importance for MEPs to stay committed to European values of democracy, proportionality and the rule of law. The measures proposed in the compromise amendments fail to do this.
Government actions and laws should not encourage administrative and private censorship. The Parliament should oppose such a mandate in strong terms. It is entirely inappropriate for government actors to forfeit the public's role in defining and enforcing the laws that govern our free expression online.
The signatories therefore urge you to vote against the Directive and especially against compromise amendments that infringe upon our rights. We also request a meaningful impact assessment from the European Commission on provisions that affect human rights.
- Access Now, International
- ApTI (Asociația pentru Tehnologie și Internet), Romania
- Bits of Freedom, The Netherlands
- Chaos Computer Club (CCC) e.V., Germany
- Digitalcourage, Germany
- Digitale Gesellschaft e.V., Switzerland
- European Digital Rights (EDRi)
- Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), USA
- Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft (Fitug e.V.), Germany
- Föreningen för Digitala Fri- och Rättigheter (DFRI), Sweden
- Initiative für Netzfreiheit, Austria
- IT-Political Association of Denmark, Denmark
- Panoptykon Foundation, Poland
- La Quadrature du Net, France
- Quintessenz, Austria
- Stanford CIS, USA
- Vrijschrift, The Netherlands
- X-Net, Spain
- Study of the Council of Europe on France' situation: https://rm.coe.int/CoERMPublicCommonSearchServices/DisplayDCTMContent?do...
- Study of the Council of Europe on the general situation: https://www.coe.int/en/web/freedom-expression/study-filtering-blocking-a...
- Analysis of Daphne Keller (Stanford CIS): https://cyberlaw.stanford.edu/blog/2016/05/can-new-broadcasting-law-euro...
- LQDN's analysis: https://wiki.laquadrature.net/Directive_Terrorisme/en
- La Quadrature du Net's previous press release: https://www.laquadrature.net/en/terrorisme-directive-european-parliament...
- EDRi analysis of draft report: https://edri.org/files/counterterrorism/CounterTerror_LIBEDraftReport_ED...