On 11th November, thousands of people marched in the streets of Warsaw, Poland, to celebrate the
country's Independence Day. The march attracted massive numbers of people from the nationalist or far right end of the political spectrum.
The march proved very photogenic, with images showing the scale of the march and also the stylised symbology proved very powerful and thought provoking.
But the images caused problems for the likes of Facebook, on what should be censored and what should not.
Once could argue that the world needs to see what is going on amongst large segments of the population in Poland, and indeed across Europe. Perhaps if they see the popularity of the far right then maybe communities and politicians can be spurred
into addressing some of the fundamental societal break downs leading to this mass movement.
On the other hand, there will be those that consider the images to be something that could attract and inspire others to join the cause.
But from just looking at news pictures, it would be hard to know what to think. And that dilemma is exactly what caused confusion amongst censors at Facebook.
) reports on a collection of such images, published on Facebook by a renowned photojournalist in Poland, that was taken down by the social media's content censors. Chris Niedenthal attended the march to practice his craft, not to participate, and
posted his photos on Nov. 12, the day after the march. Facebook took them down. He posted them again the next day. Facebook took them down again on Nov. 14. Niedenthal himself was also blocked from Facebook for 24 hours. The author concludes that
a legitimate professional journalist or photojournalist should not be 'punished' for doing his duty.
Facebook told Quartz that the photos, because they contained hate speech symbols, were taken down for violating the platform's community standards policy barring content that shows support for hate groups. The captions on the photos were neutral,
so Facebook's moderators could not tell if the person posting them supported, opposed, or was indifferent about hate groups, a spokesperson said. Content shared that condemns or merely documents events can remain up. But that which is interpreted
to show support for hate groups is banned and will be removed.
Eventually Facebook allowed the photos to remain on the platform. Facebook apologized for the error, in a message, and in a personal phone call.
The European Union is in the process of creating an authority to monitor and censor so-called fake news. It is setting up a High-Level 'Expert'
Group. The EU is currently consulting media professionals and the public to decide what powers to give to this EU body, which is to begin operation next spring.
The World Socialist Web Site
has its own colourful view on the intentions of the body, but I don't suppose it is too far from the truth:
An examination of the EU's announcement shows that it is preparing mass state censorship aimed not at false information, but at news reports or political views that encourage popular opposition to the European ruling class.
It aims to create conditions where unelected authorities control what people can read or say online.
EU Vice-President Frans Timmermans explained the move in ominous tersm
We live in an era where the flow of information and misinformation has become almost overwhelming. The EU's task is to protect its citizens from fake news and to manage the information they receive.
According to an EU press release, the EU Commission, another unelected body, will select the High-Level Expert Group, which is to start in January 2018 and will work over several months. It will discuss possible future actions to strengthen
citizens' access to reliable and verified information and prevent the spread of disinformation online.
Who will decide what views are verified, who is reliable and whose views are disinformation to be deleted from Facebook or removed from Google search results? The EU, of course.
The European Union voted on November 14, to pass the new internet censorship regulation nominally in the name of consumer protection. But of course
censorship often hides behind consumer protection, eg the UK's upcoming internet porn ban is enacted in the name of protecting under 18 internet consumers.
The new EU-wide law gives extra power to national consumer protection agencies, but which also contains a vaguely worded clause that also grants them the power to block and take down websites without judicial oversight.
Member of the European Parliament Julia Reda said in a speech in the European Parliament Plenary during a last ditch effort to amend the law:
The new law establishes overreaching Internet blocking measures that are neither proportionate nor suitable for the goal of protecting consumers and come without mandatory judicial oversight,
According to the new rules, national consumer protection authorities can order any unspecified third party to block access to websites without requiring judicial authorization, Reda added later in the day on her blog .
This new law is an EU regulation and not a directive, meaning its obligatory for all EU states.
The new law proposal started out with good intentions, but sometimes in the spring of 2017, the proposed regulation received a series of amendments that watered down some consumer protections but kept intact the provisions that ensured national
consumer protection agencies can go after and block or take down websites.
Presumably multinational companies had been lobbying for new weapons n their battle against copyright infringement. For instance, the new law gives national consumer protection agencies the legal power to inquire and obtain information about
domain owners from registrars and Internet Service Providers.
Besides the website blocking clause, authorities will also be able to request information from banks to detect the identity of the responsible trader, to freeze assets, and to carry out mystery shopping to check geographical discrimination or
Three countries are using the European Council to put dangerous pro-censorship amendments into the already controversial Copyright Directive.
The copyright law that Openmedia has been campaigning on -- the one pushing the link tax and censorship machines -- is facing some dangerous sabotage from the European Council. In particular, France, Spain and Portugal are directly harming the
The Bill is currently being debated in the European Parliament but the European Council also gets to make its own proposed version of the law, and the two versions eventually have to compromise with each other. This European Council is made up of
ministers from the governments of all EU member states. Those ministers are usually represented by staff who do most of the negotiating on their behalf. It is not a transparent body, but it does have a lot of power.
The Council can choose to agree with Parliament's amendments, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen in this case. In fact they've been taking worrying steps, particularly when it comes to the censorship machine proposals.
As the proposal stands before the Council intervention, it encourages sites where users upload and make content to install filtering mechanisms -- a kind of censorship machine which would use algorithms to look for copyrighted content and then
block the post. This is despite the fact that there many legal reasons to use copyrighted content.
These new changes want to go a step further. They firstly want to make the censorship machine demand even more explicit. As Julia Reda puts it:
They want to add to the Commission proposal that platforms need to automatically remove media that has once been classified as infringing, regardless of the context in which it is uploaded.
Then, they go all in with a suggested rewrite of existing copyright law to end the liability protections which are vital for a functioning web.
Liability protection laws mean we (not websites) are responsible for what we say and post online. This is so that websites are not obliged to monitor everything we say or do. If they were liable there would be much overzealous blocking and
censorship. These rules made YouTube, podcast platforms, social media, all possible. The web as we know it works because of these rules.
But the governments of France, Spain, Portugal and the Estonian President of the Council want to undo them. It would mean all these sites could be sued for any infringement posted there. It would put off new sites from developing. And it
would cause huge legal confusion -- given that the exact opposite is laid out in a different EU law.
Staff at French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo have received death threats over a cartoon of the muslim academic
Tariq Ramadan who has been accused of rape by two women.
The Charlie Hebdo take on the case was a cartoon depicting Ramadan sporting an impossibly enormous erection (inside his trousers) with the caption: I am the sixth pillar of Islam.
The Paris prosecutor's office has now opened a police inquiry into the death threat.
Laurent Riss Sourisseau, the magazine's editor, said the threats and hate mail had never really stopped after the January 2015 jihadist attack in which 12 people were gunned down at its offices. He said:
It's always difficult to know if these are serious threats or not, but as a principle, we take them seriously and press charges.
On 22 September 2017, a poster of André Téchiné's film Nos Années Folles was removed from the wall of the
Jeanne d'Arc cinema in Paris by a public servant due to it featuring nudity and a transvestite man, reported Le Figaro .
The row over the poster started when the president of the catholic association, which runs the private primary school Notre-Dame du Sacré Coeur, contacted Marielke Fleury, who runs the Jeanne d'Arc cinema, to demand the poster be removed because
it featured content that children could see on their way to school given that the poster was on the outside of the cinema.
The Senlis Parish Schools Management Organization (Ogeps) described itself as "mediator" in the conflict and took complaints from parents and school administrators to the cinema. One of its public servants then asked for the key to
access the poster on 22 September 2017 and took the poster down.
In response to the removal, Fleury posted a sign in place of the removed poster which read: "poster censored by Ogeps".
Germany has a bizarre censorship law that bans Nazi references and symbology from use in the media, presumably fearing that it may somehow stir a rebirth of the far right. One suspects that the current resurgence of the far right may be little do
with media images, and is perhaps more likely to do with political leaders and their significantly unpopular policies of welcoming mass immigration.
Anyway the law is the law, and the latest video game in the Wolfenstein series has had to be censored in Germany (and probably Austria too). The previous episode, Wolfenstein: The New Order was also cut in 2014 to remove Nazi references.
Wolfenstein II: Welcome to Amerika suffers the following cuts:
Hitler is renamed heiler (healer)
My fuhrer becomes mein Kanzler (my chancellor)
Hitler loses his iconic moustache
The swastika is replaced by a stark menacing looking three-pronged symbol
also speculates that an actor is shot by Hitler for being a spy rather than being jewish.
Article 13: Monitoring and filtering of internet content is unacceptable. Index on Censorship joined with 56 other NGOs to call for the deletion of Article
13 from the proposal on the Digital Single Market, which includes obligations on internet companies that would be impossible to respect without the imposition of excessive restrictions on citizens' fundamental rights.
Dear President Juncker,
Dear President Tajani,
Dear President Tusk,
Dear Prime Minister Ratas,
Dear Prime Minister Borissov,
Dear MEP Voss, MEP Boni
The undersigned stakeholders represent fundamental rights organisations.
Fundamental rights, justice and the rule of law are intrinsically linked and constitute core values on which the EU is founded. Any attempt to disregard these values undermines the mutual trust between member states required for the EU to
function. Any such attempt would also undermine the commitments made by the European Union and national governments to their citizens.
Article 13 of the proposal on Copyright in the Digital Single Market include obligations on internet companies that would be impossible to respect without the imposition of excessive restrictions on citizens' fundamental rights.
Article 13 introduces new obligations on internet service providers that share and store user-generated content, such as video or photo-sharing platforms or even creative writing websites, including obligations to filter uploads to their services.
Article 13 appears to provoke such legal uncertainty that online services will have no other option than to monitor, filter and block EU citizens' communications if they are to have any chance of staying in business.
Article 13 contradicts existing rules and the case law of the Court of Justice. The Directive of Electronic Commerce ( 2000/31/EC) regulates the liability for those internet companies that host content on behalf of their users. According to
the existing rules, there is an obligation to remove any content that breaches copyright rules, once this has been notified to the provider.
Article 13 would force these companies to actively monitor their users' content, which contradicts the 'no general obligation to monitor' rules in the Electronic Commerce Directive. The requirement to install a system for filtering electronic
communications has twice been rejected by the Court of Justice, in the cases Scarlet Extended ( C 70/10) and Netlog/Sabam (C 360/10). Therefore, a legislative provision that requires internet companies to install a filtering system would
almost certainly be rejected by the Court of Justice because it would contravene the requirement that a fair balance be struck between the right to intellectual property on the one hand, and the freedom to conduct business and the right to freedom
of expression, such as to receive or impart information, on the other.
In particular, the requirement to filter content in this way would violate the freedom of expression set out in Article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. If internet companies are required to apply filtering mechanisms in order to
avoid possible liability, they will. This will lead to excessive filtering and deletion of content and limit the freedom to impart information on the one hand, and the freedom to receive information on the other.
If EU legislation conflicts with the Charter of Fundamental Rights, national constitutional courts are likely to be tempted to disapply it and we can expect such a rule to be annulled by the Court of Justice. This is what happened with the
Data Retention Directive (2006/24/EC), when EU legislators ignored compatibility problems with the Charter of Fundamental Rights. In 2014, the Court of Justice declared the Data Retention Directive invalid because it violated the Charter.
Taking into consideration these arguments, we ask the relevant policy-makers to delete Article 13.
European Digital Rights (EDRi)
Associação D3 -- Defesa dos Direitos Digitais
Associação Nacional para o Software Livre (ANSOL)
Association for Progressive Communications (APC)
Association for Technology and Internet (ApTI)
Association of the Defence of Human Rights in Romania (APADOR)
Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication (BNNRC)
Bits of Freedom (BoF)
Bulgarian Helsinki Committee
Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT)
Centre for Peace Studies
Coalizione Italiana Liberta@ e Diritti Civili (CILD)
Code for Croatia
Culture Action Europe
Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
Estonian Human Rights Centre
Freedom of the Press Foundation
Frënn vun der Ënn
Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights
Hermes Center for Transparency and Digital Human Rights
Human Rights Monitoring Institute
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Without Frontiers
Hungarian Civil Liberties Union
Index on Censorship
International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR)
International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
Justice & Peace
La Quadrature du Net
Media Development Centre
Miklos Haraszti (Former OSCE Media Representative)
Modern Poland Foundation
Netherlands Helsinki Committee
One World Platform
Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI)
Open Rights Group (ORG)
Plataforma en Defensa de la Libertad de Información (PDLI)
Reporters without Borders (RSF)
Rights International Spain
South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
South East European Network for Professionalization of Media (SEENPM)
The Right to Know Coalition of Nova Scotia (RTKNS)
The EU is considering forcing websites to vet uploaded content for pirated material. Of course only the media giants have the capability to do this and so the smaller players would be killed (probably as intended)
If you've been following the slow progress of the European Commission's proposal to introduce new
upload filtering mandates for Internet platforms
, or its equally misguided plans to impose a new link tax
on those who publish snippets from news stories, you should know that the end game is close at hand. The LIBE (Civil Liberties) Committee is the last committee of the European Parliament that is due to vote on its opinion on the so-called
"Digital Single Market" proposals this Thursday October 5, before the proposals return to their home committee of the Parliament (the JURI or Legal Affairs Committee) for the preparation of a final draft.
The Confused Thinking Behind the Upload Filtering Mandate
The Commission's rationale for the upload filtering mandate seems to be that in order to address unwelcome behavior online (in this case, copyright infringement), you have to not only make that behavior illegal, but you also have to make it impossible
. The same rationale also underpins other similar notice and stay-down schemes, such as one that already
exists in Italy
; they are meant to stop would-be copyright infringement in its tracks by preventing presumptively-infringing material from being uploaded to begin with, thereby preventing it from being downloaded by anyone else.
But this kind of prior restraint on speech or behavior isn't commonly applied to citizens in any other area of their lives. You car isn't speed-limited so that it's impossible for you to exceed the speed limit. Neither does your telephone contain
a bugging device that makes it impossible for you to slander your neighbor. Why is copyright treated so differently, that it requires not only that actual infringements be dealt with (Europe's existing DMCA-like
notice and takedown system
already provides for this), but that predicted future infringements also be prevented?
More importantly, what about the rights of those whose uploaded content is flagged as being copyright-infringing, when it really isn't? The European Commission's own research, in a commissioned report that they
attempted to bury
, suggests that the harm to copyright holders from copyright infringement is much less than has been often assumed. At the very least, this has to give us pause before adopting new extreme copyright enforcement measures that will impact users'
Even leaving aside the human impact of the upload filter, European policymakers should also be concerned about the impact of the mandate on small businesses and startups. A market-leading tool required to implement upload filtering just for
audio files would cost a medium-sized file hosting company between $10,000 to $25,000 per month in license fees
alone. In the name of copyright enforcement, European policymakers would give a market advantage to entrenched large companies at the expense of smaller local companies and startups.
The Link Tax Proposal is Also Confused
The link tax proposal is also based on a false premise. But if you are expecting some kind of doctrinally sound legal argument for why a new link-tax ought to inhere in news publishers, you will be sorely disappointed. Purely and simply, the
proposal is founded on the premise that because news organizations are struggling to maintain their revenues in the post-millennial digital media space, and because Internet platforms are doing comparatively better, it is politically expedient
that the latter industry be made to subsidize the former. There's nothing more coherent behind this proposal than that kind of base realpolitik.
But the proposal doesn't even work on that level. In fact, we agree that news publishers are struggling. We just don't think that taxing those who publish snippets of news articles will do anything to help them. Indeed, the fact that
small news publishers have rejected the link tax proposal
, and that previous implementations of the link tax in Spain and Germany were dismal failures
, tells you all that you need to know about whether taxing links would really be good for journalism.
So as these two misguided and harmful proposals make their way through the LIBE committee this week, it's time to call an end to this nonsense. Digital rights group OpenMedia has launched a click-to-call tool that you can use, available in
, and Polish
. If you're a European citizen, the tool will call your representative on the LIBE committee, and if you don't have an MEP, it calls the committee chair, Claude Moraes. As the counter clicks closer to midnight on these regressive and cynical
copyright measures, it's more important than ever for individual users like you to be heard.
11th October 2017. From OpenMedia
With only 48 hours notice we received word that the vote had been delayed. Why? The content censorship measures have become so controversial that MEPs decided that they needed more work to improve them, before they would be ready to go vote.
There's never been a better time to call your MEP about these rules. This week they are back in their offices and ready to start thinking with a fresh head. The delay means we have even more time to say no to content censorship, and no to the Link
Tax. With so many people speaking up, it's clear our opponents are rattled. Now we must keep up the pressure.
Norway's Culture Ministry is determined to revoke a century-old law on municipal cinema licensing in order to fight censorship and promote free
The Norwegian government's proposal to reform the cinema concession law is aimed at ensuring more diversity and breadth in film choice, but it is facing resistance from the entrenched players.
According to Eva Liestøl, speaking for Norway's film censors at the Norwegian Media Authority, whinged that enabling competition in the cinema industry may have far-reaching consequences. She said:
A revocation of licensing, combined with today's simplified film production technology, can lead to a marked growth of Bollywood, Netflix, pop-up and downright porno cinemas.
The Media authority proposes that if local authority licensing is scrapped it should be replaced by a national cinema register in order to supervise, among other things, the observance of age limits.
The cinema concession act is 104 years old and dates back to 1913. The main argument from the government's side is that the concession practice violates the constitution, because the municipalities, by deciding what is to be shown in the cinema,
in practice indulge in censorship that can hinder the freedom of expression.
Arild Kalkvik, who chairs the Norwegian Association of Cinema Directors is inevitably unimpressed by freedom of expression, saying:
The termination of the licensing procedure, however, will unleash free market forces, which means that virtually anyone will be able to start a cinema anywhere and show anything they want. This can lead to the emergence of unserious actors who
just want to take the cream off the milk with brief stints, which, you know, go well combined with alcohol sales
The law change has been in a consultation phase since this summer.
The ruthless efficiency with which the Spanish government censored the Internet ahead of the referendum on Catalonian independence foreshadowed the
severity of its crackdown at polling places on October 1 . We have previously written about one aspect of that censorship; the raid of the .cat top-level domain registry . But there was much more to it than that, and many of the more than 140
censored domains and Internet services continue to be blocked today.
It began with the seizure of the referendum.cat domain, the official referendum website, on September 13 by the Guardia Civil (Spanish military police), pursuant to a warrant issued by the Supreme Court of Catalonia. Over the ensuring days this
order was soon extended to a number of other and unofficial mirrors of the website, such as ref1oct.cat , ref1oct.eu , which were seized if they were hosted at a .cat domain, and blocked by ISPs if they were not. (The fact that Spanish ISPs
already blocked websites such as the Pirate Bay under court order enabled the blocking of additional websites to be rolled out swiftly.)
One of these subsequent censorship orders, issued on September 23 , was especially notable in that it empowered the Guardia Civil to block not only a list of named websites, but also any future sites with content related to content about the
referendum, publicized on any social network by a member of the Catalonian Government. This order accelerated the blocking of further websites without any further court order. These apparently included the censorship of non-partisan citizen
collectives (e.g. empaperem.cat ) and other non-profit organizations ( assemblea.cat , webdelsi.cat , alerta.cat ), and campaign websites by legal political parties ( prenpartit.cat ).
On Friday a separate court order was obtained requiring Google to remove a voting app from the Google Play app store. Similar to the September 23 order, the order also required Google to remove any other apps developed by the same developer. Those
violating such orders by setting up mirrors, reverse proxies, or alternative domains for blocked content were summoned to court and face criminal charges . One of these activists also had his GitHub and Google accounts seized.
On the day of the referendum itself, the Internet was shut down at polling places in an effort to prevent votes from being transmitted to returning officers.
Throughout this unrest, a group of activists sharing the Twitter account @censura1oct has been verifying the blocks from multiple ISPs, and sharing information about the technical measures used. All of the censorship measures that were put in
place in the leadup to the referendum appear to remain in place today, though we don't know for how much longer. The Spanish government no doubt hopes that its repression of political speech in Catalonia will be forgotten if the censored sites
come back online quickly. We need to ensure that that isn't the case.
The Spanish government's censorship of online speech during the Catalonian referendum period is so wildly disproportionate and overbroad, that its violation of these instruments seems almost beyond dispute.
Germany's new internet censorship law came into force on 1st October. The law nominally targets 'hate speech', but massively high penalties coupled
with ridiculously short time scales allowed to consider the issues, mean that the law ensures that anything the authorities don't like will have to be immediately censored...just in case.
Passed earlier this summer, the law will financially penalize social media platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, if they don't remove hate speech, as per its definition in Germany's current criminal code within 24 hours. They will be
allowed up to a week to decide for comments that don't fall into the blatant hate speech category. The top fine for not deleting hate speech within 24 hours is 50 million euro though that would be for repeatedly breaking the law, not for
Journalists, lawyers, and free-speech advocates have been voicing their concerns about the new law for months. They say that, to avoid fines, Facebook and others will err on the side of caution and just delete swathes of comments, including ones
that are not illegal. They worry that social media platforms are being given the power to police and effectively shut down people's right to free opinion and free speech in Germany.
The German Journalists Association (DJV) is calling on journalists and media organizations to start documenting all deletions of their posts on social media as of today. The borders of free speech must not be allowed to be drawn by profit-driven
businesses, said DJV chairman Frank 3cberall in a recent statement.
Reporters Without Borders also expressed their strong opposition to the law when it was drafted in May, saying it would contribute to the trend to privatize censorship by delegating the duties of judges to commercial online platforms -- as if the
internet giants can replace independent and impartial courts.