Image for Censorship machines out at last
Avatar image of Ruth Coustick-Deal
International Free Expression Copyright North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Our Vision

Censorship machines out at last

Plans for censorship machines were removed in a key vote on the EU's new copyright law, but remaining loopholes are still open to abuse by private companies   

Yesterday the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties committee (LIBE) voted against censorship machines. The core problematic proposal for mandatory content filteringin the European Commission’s copyright plans was tossed out: success!

The European Commission’s draft proposal (specifically Article 13) proposed site-wide algorithms for blocking and filtering all user created content, based purely on suspicion of copyright infringement—not based on whether the speech is legal or not.

It would have seen systems installed across Europe that block parodies, news, and critical videos from even being posted, because they detect some of the content within the material to be “copyrighted content”.

Over 135,000 people have spoken up against Censorship Machines and Link Tax as part of our Save The Linkcampaign. MEPs on the LIBE committee received hundreds of your calls direct to their offices, urging them to reject Articles 11 and 13.

Despite heavy lobbying from media conglomerates, today's decision shows that your voices are being heard.  It is great news that you are having real impact.

We have to especially thank the rapporteur MEP Michal Boni for proposing and successfully pushing this Compromise.

However, this is a compromise, not a perfect result.

As MEPs responsible for civil liberties, it was disappointing that the Committee was not able to be bold enough to truly protect free expression and delete the flawed Article entirely.

No one asked for these measures in the public consultation, the European Parliament didn’t put them forward. This came all from the European Commission, and MEPs had the chance to reject it entirely.

The version of the draft law that was voted-in today also requests that websites where users upload content must take, “appropriate and proportionate measures” to protect copyrighted content. What are those measures? At this point, no one knows.

Given how unclear this is, it is still possible that these could involve back-door agreements for content filtering, as this is what lobbyists are pushing hard for so openly. What we have on our side is that the amendments also state that any measures should not involve mass spying — which is exactly what censorship machines would do in order to work.

Removing the worst phrases, but leaving us with a vague and inconclusive law puts power in the hands of private companies to decide how to interpret the law. Those with the deepest pockets and best paid lawyers will implement these rules according to their own advantage. So we have to keep our eye on what comes next very carefully.

Monday’s vote is still real positive momentum, and a clear rejection of making content filtering mandatory across the web.

With the lead committee voting in the new year, we sincerely hope they’ll take this positive decision as a sign and pay more attention to the public’s voice.

Their vote is the big opportunity to make the bold changes you’ve been asking for, removing both censorship machines and the link tax from the draft law.