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September 09 2013

European Parliament Must Vote (Again) Against Censorship

Paris, 9 September 2013 – During a plenary vote scheduled for 10 September 2013, the European Parliament will vote on a report of Ashley Fox (ECR - UK) on “Online gambling in the internal market”. On behalf of such laudable goals as child protection, fight against money laundering and addiction to gambling, the report calls for the setting up of dangerous online censorship. Thus, La Quadrature du Net warns the Members of the European Parliament and urges citizens to contact their representatives to ask them to remain opposed to these anti-democratic measures during the vote of tomorrow (by supporting the split vote on §19 - 1st part).

Adopted at the end of May 2013 in “Consumer protection” committee with 32 votes in favor and 3 against, the report of Ashley Fox (ECR - UK) on “Online gambling in the internal market” “recommends the exchange of best practices between Member States on enforcement measures – such as on establishing white and black lists of, and preventing access to, illegal gambling websites”1. The ineffectiveness and dangers of such measures have been well proven: many studies have highlighted the risk of content censorship, the high cost, and the ease to circumvent it for individuals benefiting from these illegal activities.

La Quadrature du Net reminds that the only effective way against these illegal activities is the removal of content directly at the source, on the servers, and taking to court the individuals who publish it. In the best case, the implementation of the censorship measures proposed in this report would be expensive and inefficient, and in the worst case, they would have a serious impact on the freedom of communication of citizens.

Nevertheless, the measures proposed by Ashley Fox seem to find support among some EPP and S&D MEPs. Both of these political groups appear unable to define a coherent position on this issue, thus, the outcome of the vote is difficult to predict, and a modest number of voices could change it. MEPs must reject this attempt to impose censorship online.

“As often with online content, some of our representatives think they can solve problems by hidding it and by imposing censorship. Unfortunately, this solution is pure display as it doesn't solve anything but is most likely to affect the freedom of communication for all citizens. Because it can only undermine the fundamental values of our democracy, censorship cannot solve any problem, legitimate or not, and should be banned and repealed where it already exists.” declared Jérémie Zimmermann, co-founder and spokesperson of the citizen organisation La Quadrature du Net.

  • 1. Item 19 of the report:
    ”19. Recommends the introduction of uniform, pan-European common security standards for electronic identification and cross border e-verification services; welcomes the Commission’s proposal for a directive on e-identification and authentication, which will allow for interoperability of national e-identification schemes where these exist; calls, therefore, for registration and identification procedures to be streamlined and made more efficient, notably in order to ensure efficient identification mechanisms and to prevent multiple accounts per player and access by minors to online gambling websites; recommends the exchange of best practices between Member States on enforcement measures – such as on establishing white and black lists of, and preventing access to, illegal gambling websites, jointly defining secure and traceable payment solutions, and considering the feasibility of blocking financial transactions – in order to protect consumers against illegal operators;”

March 01 2013

Freedoms Online in France: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back?

Paris, 28 February 2013 — Following an intergovernmental seminar on digital policy [fr], French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault announced a law “on the protection of digital rights and freedoms” for early 2014. While this announcement offers hope for the defense of freedoms online, recent statements made by members of the French government suggest it is not yet ready to break away from the repressive trend initiated by its predecessors.

The law announced by Jean-Marc Ayrault at the end of the intergovernmental seminar on digital policy alludes to a number of improvements regarding the protection of freedoms online, among which the possible legal protection of Net neutrality which is once again delayed (our translation):

If, once the National Digital Council (Conseil national du numérique) has expressed its opinion on Net neutrality, there appears to be a legal loophole in the protection of freedom of expression and communication on the Internet [then] the government will offer legislative dispositions.1

Unfortunately, the government seems to be reducing the stakes of freedom of expression online to that of Net neutrality protection. Yet, though the latter is of course crucial to preserve the universal architecture of the Internet, it is not enough in and of itself.

In the meantime, other announcements and statements by the government – such as the return of administrative filtering of websites, which was thought to be dead and buried2, the announced reform of the French 1881 law on freedom of the press to take into account the Internet's strike force [fr], and the calling into question of web hosting services' liability by members of the majority [fr] and the Pierre Lescure working group3 [fr] – show that the current French government is not ready to break away from the repressive policies of Nicolas Sarkozy's ministers.

“The government does as if Net neutrality was the sole issue at stake in the protection of freedom of expression online. In the meantime, we see a resurgence of the sarkozyst rhetoric of considering Internet a dangerous lawless zone4, which in turn justifies private polices or the return of administrative censorship. Under the guise of a law on freedoms online, which could bring real improvements, the French government is postponing a possible legislation on Net neutrality and bringing the issue of repressive measures back on the agenda.” declared Jérémie Zimmermann, spokesperson for citizen advocacy group La Quadrature du Net.

To get more information and discuss this, you can visit our forum.

  • 1. After the roundtable organized in January in response to customer access restrictions by Free (French ISP), Fleur Pellerin, the French Minister for the Digital Economy, had committed to announcing at the end of February [fr] the government's intention to legislate or not on Net neutrality, based on the National Digital Council's opinion.
  • 2. The French government's commitment that an “independent control will be created for the measures of administrative filtering or blocking” (our translation) alludes to a return of LOPPSI, the French law of orientation and programmation for internal security performance allowing administrative blocking in the name of tackling child abuse content online
    Source: [fr]
  • 3. Pierre Lescure (former CEO of Canal +, a major TV station owned by Universal) is currently leading a working group advising the French government on the future of Hadopi, the French "three strikes" agency
  • 4. A “zone de non-droit”. In 2011, after a political scandal was revealed on the Internet and by WikiLeaks' revelations, President Nicolas Sarkozy and his government described the Internet as a lawless zone to regulate, in order to justify repressive measures. On 7 February 2013, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, French Minister of Women's Rights and spokesperson for the Ayrault government, used the same words during a debate in the upper house of the French Parliament.
    Source: [fr]

October 24 2012

Commission's Plan for Online Gambling: Risk of Anti-Democratic Censorship, Again

Paris, 24 October 2012 – While the European Commission sets out an action plan for online gambling, La Quadrature du Net warns about the risk of Internet content censorship, and urges Member States's governments to refuse the instrumentalisation of child protection for unacceptable measures.

In the name of child protection and of the fight against money laundering and fraud, the European Commission is once again encouraging the development of online content filters:

The Commission is encouraging the development of better age-verification tools and online content filters.

As shown by numerous examples in the past, the instrumentalisation of this kind of legitimate pledge often hides the worst anti-democratic measures. Content filtering has already proven ineffective to tackle issues that the Commission says it needs to deal with: the only effective way is to remove content directly from the source, that is to say on the server where they are hosted, and to arrest individuals benefiting from these illegal contents.

Once established, censorship through filtering could easily be extended to other categories of content, for example in the interest of entertainment lobbies. International mechanisms already exist to fight money laundering, and must be used and strenghtened. Filtering of Internet content must be banned for the future, and repealed where it already exist, such as in France.

“Once again, the European Commission is trying to implement dangerous filtering measures through proposals that appear legitimate and respectable. But other measures would be much more effective and less problematic in a freedom of expression perspective. Access to the Internet is now essential to participate in public debate and for access to knowledge. Under no pretext must we allow Internet censorship to develop, or else we will profoundly undermine the most fundamental values of our democracy.” declared Jérémie Zimmermann, co-founder and spokesperson of the citizen organisation La Quadrature du Net.

To get more informations and discuss about it, you can go to our forum.

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