Net Censorship Comes Before the EU Parliament

Last Spring, the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmström, presented a proposal for a directive to combat child exploitation. Unfortunately, this very important and sensitive matter is used to introduce dangerous provisions regarding Internet blocking, which could pave the way for a wider censorship of the Internet in Europe. The EU Parliament must absolutely reject this Trojan horse and uphold the fundamental rights of EU citizens.

Ahead of the EU Parliament debate on the Commission's proposal1 for the blocking of child abuse websites, La Quadrature du Net sent a letter to the Members of the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs committee (LIBE committee) -- in charge of the directive at this stage -- to ask them to reject any form of censorship on the Internet.

Whereas the effectiveness and proportionality of blocking and filtering of websites is called into questions in many Member States, the Commission is ignoring the legitimate concerns regarding the disastrous consequences of such measures on freedom of expression and freedom of communication. Quite fortunately, the rapporteur at the EU Parliament, Roberta Angelilli, is proposing a viable compromise whereby the deletion of illegal content should be the priority and that blocking should be left up to Member States. However, the risk is that very dangerous amendments will be subsequently tabled to impose a EU-wide web blocking scheme. That's why it is very important that citizens get involved to explain to the LIBE committee why Net blocking is such a threat on fundamental rights.

Procedure

  • The report will be discussed today by the Committee at 3PM (watch live stream here).
  • Members of the Committee will then have until the 20th of January to table amendments, for instance to introduce strong legal protections to restrict the implementation of blocking measures at the national level in Member States.
  • The LIBE committee will vote on these amendments on the 3rd of February, before the directive goes to plenary vote later on.

Every citizen can weigh in by getting in touch with their representatives at the Parliament. For more information, see EDRi's campaign page.

The letter sent today to LIBE MEPs

Dear MEP,

As the LIBE committee prepares to discuss the Angelilli Report regarding the blocking of child abuse websites, we call on you to go further than the rapporteur and reject any measure instrumentalizing the protection of children in ways that would install a censorship infrastructure on the Internet. Whether it is implemented at the EU or national level, blocking is a false solution to a very serious issue that deserves effective and resolute action:

  • Blocking fails to give proper incentives for the removal of content, which is only way to actually tackle sexual abuse of children. As the example of Germany suggests, only measures tackling the problem at its roots (by deleting the incriminated content from the servers; by attacking financial flows) and the reinforcement of the means of police investigators can combat child pornography.
  • Blocking is ineffective, since Internet blocking measures can be easily circumvented by people and criminal organisations exploiting child pornographic content.
  • The Commission's proposal ignores the risk of over-blocking - i.e the "collateral censorship" of perfectly lawful websites -, which will appear regardless of the filtering techniques that are chosen at the national level.
  • The Commission's proposal omits to specify that only judicial authorities should be entitled to allow Internet blocking measures to ensure that they are proportionate and respect the fundamental right to freedom of expression. Short of this crucial insurance, core principles of the rule of Law in the European Union will be undermined.
  • The Commission's proposal lacks protection against "mission creep", i.e the extension of Internet blocking to new fields, such as copyright. Such severe measures could be extended to new fields in the near future, thereby further calling into question Europe's fight for freedom of expression on the Internet and undermining its moral legitimacy at the international level.

We trust that you will protect the fundamental rights of EU citizens by expressing a clear refusal of filtering and blocking measures. We remain available for any inquiry you may have.

Sincerely,

La Quadrature du Net

For more information regarding Internet blocking and filtering, see the study: "Internet blocking and democracy".

  • 1. Article 21 - Blocking access to web sites containing child pornography:
    1. Member States shall take the necessary measures to obtain the blocking of access by Internet users in their territory to Internet pages containing or disseminating child pornography. The blocking of access shall be subject to adequate safeguards, in particular to ensure that the blocking is limited to what is necessary, that users are informed of the reason for the blocking and that content providers, as far as possible, are informed of the possibility of challenging it.

    2. Without prejudice to the above, Member States shall take the necessary measures to obtain the removal of Internet pages containing or disseminating child pornography.

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