The European Commission has drafted new laws to force ISPs to block child porn. The measure will be voted on by the European
Parliament next month. The technical solutions envisaged are broadly based on arrangements in the UK, where all major ISPs block access to child abuse websites named on a list maintained by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF).
If the laws are passed as proposed, the UK government will get powers to force the small ISPs who do not use the IWF blocklist – who serve less than 2% of British internet users – to fall into line. Last year the Home Office abandoned
a pledge to enforce 100% compliance.
Although voluntary, the British system is not without controversy, and EuroISPA, the European ISP trade association, is lobbying MEPs to reject the move to enforce it across the bloc.
Malcolm Hutty, the President of EuroISPA, said: In order to make the Directive on child sexual exploitation as strong as possible, emphasis must be placed on making swift notice and takedown of child sexual abuse material
focused and effective. Blocking, as an inefficient measure, should be avoided. Law enforcement authorities' procedures for rapid communication to internet hosting providers of such illegal material must be reviewed and bottlenecks eliminated.
The European Court of Justice has given a preliminary opinion that will have far-reaching implications in the fight against
overaggressive copyright monopoly abusers. It is not a final verdict, but the Advocate General's position; the Court generally follows this. The Advocate General says that no ISP can be required to filter the Internet, and particularly not to enforce
the copyright monopoly.
The opinion is very clear: Advocate General Cruz Villalon considers that the installation of that filtering and blocking system is a restriction on the right to respect for the privacy of communications and the right to protection of personal data,
both of which are rights protected under the Charter of Fundamental Rights. By the same token, the deployment of such a system would restrict freedom of information, which is also protected by the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
Broadband providers have voiced alarm over an EU proposal to create a Great Firewall of Europe by blocking illicit web material
at the borders of the bloc.
The proposal emerged an obscure meeting of the Council of the European Union's Law Enforcement Work Party (LEWP), a forum for cooperation on issues such as counter terrorism, customs and fraud.
The minutes from the meeting state:
The Presidency of the LEWP presented its intention to propose concrete measures towards creating a single secure European cyberspace with a certain virtual Schengen border and virtual access points whereby
the Internet Service Providers (ISP) would block illicit contents on the basis of the EU black-list . Delegations were also informed that a conference on cyber-crime would be held in Budapest on 12-13 April 2011.
Malcolm Hutty, head of public affairs at LINX, a cooperative of British ISPs, said the plan appeared ill thought-out and confused . We take the view that network level filtering of the type proposed has been proven ineffective.
Broadband providers say that illegal content should be removed at the source by cooperation between police and web hosting firms because network blocking can easily be circumvented.
In legal advice to the EU Court of Justice, Advocate General Pedro Cruz Villalon has announced that EU law allows for ISPs to be ordered to block their customers from accessing known copyright infringing sites.
The opinion, which relates to a dispute between a pair of movie companies and an Austrian ISP over the now-defunct site Kino.to, is not legally binding. However, the advice of the Advocate General is usually followed in such cases.
The current dispute involves Austrian ISP UPC Telekabel Wien and movie companies Constantin Film Verleih and Wega Filmproduktionsgesellschaft. The film companies complained that the ISP was providing its subscribers with access to Kino.to which enabled
them to access their copyrighted material without permission.
Interim injunctions were granted in the movie companies' favor which required the ISP to block the site. However, the Austrian Supreme Court later issued a request to the Court of Justice to clarify whether a provider that provides Internet access to
those using an illegal website were to be regarded as an intermediary, in the same way that the host of an illegal site might.
In his opinion, Advocate General Pedro Cruz Villalon said that the ISP of a user accessing a website said to be infringing copyright should also be regarded as an intermediary whose services are used by a third party, such as the operator of an
infringing website. This means that the ISP of an infringing site user can be subjected to a blocking injunction, as long as it contain specifics on the technicalities.
The European Parliament is currently considering EU wide website blocking powers.
The latest draft of the directive on combating terrorism contains proposals on blocking websites that promote or incite terror attacks. Member states may take all necessary measures to remove or to block access to webpages publicly inciting to commit
terrorist offences, says text submitted by German MEP and rapporteur Monika Hohlmeier.
Digital rights activists have argued that it leaves the door wide open to over-blocking and censorship as safeguards defending proportionality and fundamental rights can be skipped if governments opt for voluntary schemes implemented by ISPs.
Amendments have been proposed that would require any take down or Web blocking to be subject to full judicial oversight and rubber stamping.
Last week, Estonian MEP Marju Lauristin told Ars she was very disappointed with the text, saying it was jeopardising freedom of expression as enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of EU.
The measure will be up for a vote by the civil liberties committee on 27th June.
ISPs that block access to websites with adult content or block ads could be breaking EU guidelines on net neutrality even if customers opt in. EU regulations only allow providers to block content for three reasons: to comply with a member state's laws,
to manage levels of traffic across a network, or for security.
Blocking websites with adult content has no clear legal framework in UK legislation, and providers have relied on providing the ability to opt in to protect themselves from falling foul of the rules. However, an update to guidelines issued by EU body
Berec says that even if a person indicates they want certain content to be blocked, it should be done on their device, rather than at a network level. The updated guidelines say:
With regard to some of the suggestions made by stakeholders about traffic management features that could be requested or controlled by end-users, Berec notes that the regulation does not consider that end-user consent enables ISPs to engage in such
practices at the network level.
End-users may independently choose to apply equivalent features, for example via their terminal equipment or more generally on the applications running at the terminal equipment, but Berec considers that management of such features at the network level
would not be consistent with the regulation.
Frode Sorensen, co-chair of the Berec expert working group on net neutrality said the updated guidance made it clear that it had found no legal basis for using customer choice to justify blocking any content without national legislation or for reasons of
traffic management or security.
David Cameron said in October last year that he had secured an opt-out from the rules enabling British internet providers to introduce porn filters. However, Sorensen said he was not aware of any opt-out, and the net neutrality rules introduced in
November, after Cameron made his claim, said they applied to the whole European Economic Area which includes the UK.
Social media giants Facebook, Google and Twitter will be forced to change their terms of service for EU users within a month,
or face hefty fines from European authorities, an official said on Friday.
The move was initiated after politicians have decided to blame their unpopularity on 'fake news' rather than their own incompetence and their failure to listen to the will of the people.
The EU Commission sent letters to the three companies in December, stating that some terms of service were in breach of EU protection laws and urged them to do more to prevent fraud on their platforms. The EU has also urged social media companies to do
more when it comes to assessing the suitability of user generated content.
The letters, seen by Reuters, explained that the EU Commission also wanted clearer signposting for sponsored content, and that mandatory rights, such as cancelling a contract, could not be interfered with.
Germany said this week it is working on a new law that would see social media sites face fines of up to $53 million if they failed to strengthen their efforts to remove material that the EU does not like. German censorship minister Heiko Mass said:
There must be as little space for criminal incitement and slander on social networks as on the streets. Too few criminal comments are deleted and they are not erased quickly enough. The biggest problem is that networks do not take the complaints of their
own users seriously enough...it is now clear that we must increase the pressure on social networks.