European Commission’s decision to exclude citizens’ feedback from its own public consultation will undermine trust in EU institutions
January 27, 2016
January 27, 2016 – The European Commission today released its preliminary analysis on its Public consultation on the regulatory environment for platforms, online intermediaries, data and cloud computing and the collaborative economy. To the dismay of civil society groups who engaged global Internet users on the consultation, the initial assessment excluded over 10,000 individualised responses collected at SaveTheLink.org, including over 2500 from EU citizens.
The Commission claimed only 1036 replies were received, and said “10,599 individual contributions” from Save the Link were “not taken into account for statistical purposes.” This was despite the fact that the Save The Link tool did not create ‘form letters’ but instead required individually written responses from Internet users, worried that the Commission’s consultation could place the acts of linking or ‘snippeting’ under copyright, chilling online free expression.
Responding to the Commission’s move, OpenMedia’s Digital Rights Specialist Meghan Sali had this to say:
“Excluding over 10,000 people who took the time to write individual responses to this crucial consultation is a sign of deep disrespect. Doing so is certain to further undermine trust in European institutions. The Commission’s excuse that these responses were excluded because they come ‘mostly from outside of the EU’ does not hold up to scrutiny — over 2500 replies were from EU citizens who now find themselves excluded from their own democratic process.”
Sali continued: “Furthermore, why would the Commission even agree to accept responses from individuals from outside the European Union if it just planned to disregard them? Opening a global consultation and then refusing to acknowledge those who take part seems like nothing more than an attempt to ignore inconvenient feedback. This is sure to spark fears that this consultation has a predetermined outcome that will undermine our right to link.”
“Internet users who took the time to write responses did so because they have grave concerns about potential regulations that would restrict our right to link or open the door to implementing a Europe-wide ‘snippet tax’. By ignoring these individuals the Commission will do nothing but de-legitimize their own process in the eyes of the public. A genuine consultation must include the voices of citizens, not just media conglomerates and their lobbyists who are pushing to copyright links.”
The Commission’s consultation on platforms ran from 24 September 2015 and closed on 6 January 2016. Throughout the process, the Save the Link platform was used to engage with a global community of concerned citizens working to safeguard their right to link. The vast majority of comments submitted at SaveTheLink.org/yourvoice were unique, detailed, and addressing central questions posed by the European Commission.
OpenMedia works to keep the Internet open, affordable, and surveillance-free. We create community-driven campaigns to engage, educate, and empower people to safeguard the Internet.
OpenMedia is an award-winning community-based organization that safeguards the possibilities of the open Internet. We work toward informed and participatory digital policy by engaging hundreds of thousands of people in protecting our online rights.
The Right to Link is under threat in Europe and around the world:
In Germany, influential press publishers forced legislators to implement an ‘ancillary copyright for press publishers’ that limits how others can link to their news websites. The legislation pushes search engines and news aggregators to acquire licenses for links that include snippets, resulting in lost and inaccessible content.
That same approach was then copied in Spain, where Google News was forced to shut down due to new copyright rules forcing web publishers to pay a fee in order to link out to external content.
In Canada, a provincial court passed a ruling ordering Google to block website search results, not just from its Canadian service, but from its worldwide index.
In the U.S., media conglomerates are trying to exploit obscure trade rules to block access to foreign websites they disapprove of.
In Russia, lawmakers have just approved legislation that will force websites to remove search results about a specific person, at that person’s request.
In addition to raising the issue of ancillary copyright (a.k.a. copyrighting links), the Commission consultation also addresses the policy area known as intermediary liability which seeks to make online platforms legally liable for content posted by their users.
Digital rights experts from across the world worked to put together common-sense guidelines for crafting legislation on this issue, noting that “policies governing the legal liability of intermediaries for the content of these communications have an impact on users’ rights, including freedom of expression, freedom of association and the right to privacy.”
About the Save The Link Network
The Save The Link network formally launched in May 2015, and has since grown to over 90,000 individual supporters, and over 95 civil society organizations and businesses.
Now that these link censorship schemes have been revealed it’s critical for the Internet community to show clear public opposition to these backwards ideas.
We hope this initiative will show decision-makers around the world that censorship plans face fierce opposition, and that we expect them to prioritize free expression online.
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