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European Parliament’s civil liberties committee strikes blow to dangerous proposals for content censorship

Recommendations for a censorship machine were removed, but remaining loopholes are open to abuse by private companies

Today the European Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE) took positive steps to reduce automated online censorship in the European Commission's copyright plans. In a closely watched vote, LIBE voted to remove core problematic provisions for mandatory content filtering. Today's decision is a critical inflection point in the European Commission's copyright plans.

The Commission’s draft proposal (Article 13) would introduce site-wide algorithms for blocking and filtering user created content, creating content censorship mechanisms. Experts at the Max Planck Institute recently warned that these proposals could “lead to a significant limitation of the fundamental rights including freedom of expression and information.”

Today's decision shows real positive momentum on plans which otherwise could see bots placed in control of creativity online. Despite heavy lobbying from media conglomerates, it is heartening to see the voices of European citizens being heard, as this re-write removes the demand for automated filtering. However, as MEPs responsible for civil liberties, the committee should have stepped up to truly protect free expression and deleted the flawed Article entirely.

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, and execute to their own advantage. With one critical vote remaining, we hope that the final committee vote will make the necessary bold changes the public have clearly requested, removing both content filtering and the link tax from the draft law.

Instead of calling for “content recognition technologies” the compromise proposal replaces it with “licensing agreements”. The LIBE-approved version also requests that Internet Society Service Providers (ISSPs) take, “appropriate and proportionate measures to ensure protection of works or other subject-matter." Given the lack of clarity on how these would work it practice, it remains possible that such agreements could include content filtering measures, given that this is what lobbyists are pushing hard for so openly.

OpenMedia has helped rally over 135,000 people to speak up against Censorship Machines and Link Tax as part of the Save The Link campaign. MEPs on the LIBE committee received hundreds of calls direct to their offices, urging them to reject Articles 11 and 13.

Today’s vote sets the stage for the final vote from Legal Affairs (JURI), the leading committee on this file, who are expected to vote in January. To become law, the Commission’s plans need to be approved by both the European Parliament and the European Council.

Citizens across the EU can call their MEP ahead of the final vote using this tool (Deutsch, Español, Français, Polski).


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