Europe. A large number of EU bureaucrats are working on new proposals to strangle free speech on the internet. To implement them, EU has found their ideal allies - IT companies that are out to sell their interception equipment and immigration lobbyists on the war-path against conservatives. Leaked EU documents are ignored by established media.
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There are currently two parallel tax-funded consultation groups in the EU, where bureaucrats and private equipment vendors work together to bring about new legislation drafts for parliaments and new surveillance guidelines for ISP:s (internet service providers). One group, CEO, is funded by the European Commission’s communications networks directorate. For their work, the starting point is the war on child pornography. A second group, Clean IT, funded by the European Commission’s Home Affairs Directorate, uses the ”pursuit of terrorism”. In order to pursue terrorism, Clean IT vehemently pursues new rules for all European internet users.
Critics argue that the European Commission’s flurry of activity in these two areas are, in fact, aimed at inconvenient opinions and un-spun news. They suspect that the Commission is out to interfere with the flow of ”dangerous” information between its critics, without exposing its intentions via legislation and debate. The harshest criticism is delivered by EDRI, the European Digital Rights Initiative – iteself an institute partly funded by the EU.
Outrageous demands in leaked draft documents
Last week, someone within Clean IT leaked a secret document, showing how far the consultations have advanced – and with what audacity. On Friday, the document was posted as a PDF by EDRI. Remarks on the website of Clean IT confirm the authenticity of this extraordinary protocol.
Here are just some of the commission-funded consultation group:s objectives:
• Anonymous use of Internet should be prohibited.
• Police should be empowered to shut down websites without following the current rules.
• Lists of sites should be circulated for blocking on the ISP level.
• System for blocking of content should be introduced in all social networking sites.
• Original uploading of material to the the network should be filtered.
• The authorities should be empowered to extinguish Internet domain names and prohibit the registration of domain names containing ”terrorist” wording.
• Linking to what may prove to be a ”terrorist content” should be illegal.
• Operators are responsible for ensuring that their networks are not used for ”terrorism.”
• Laws that protect employees from employer eavesdropping shall be removed.
• Operators that are monitoring traffic, but fail to report all ”terrorism” are to be punished.
• Operators that are helpful in regards of Clean IT’s ambitions should be given precedence in public procurement.
• Governments should establish education centres for forum moderators.
• Governments should build up networks of informers and train special internet policemen in the art of using youthful language.
• Governments should implement ”counter-narrative” projects.
• Governments should subsidize NGOs working against radicalizing messages online.
- and much more.
Clean IT avoids defining the word ”terrorism”. This term bobs around the document together with terms like ”hate speech” and even ”cursing”. In april this year, Clean IT was criticized by a Dutch blogger. He claimed that the organization’s real purpose is to stop dissident opinions, not imaginary terrorism on the Internet. To his surprise, the blogger sooon received a letter from Clean IT Chief Coordinator Mr. But Klaasen. In the letter, Klaasen assured that his organisation would ”identify and analyse the [Internet terrorist] problems at hand, before submitting any regulatory proposal”. But according to the leak quoted by ETRI, the blogger’s assumptions correspond quite exactly with reality. At Clean IT, no terrorist problem on the internet has been identified, analysed and (probably) not even considered.
In order to circumvent national legislation on freedom of speech and secrecy of correspondence, which are often constitutionally assured in the European democracies, Clean IT aims to insert most of their regulations on a ”voluntary” basis in the terms and conditions of ISP:s. It instructs service providers to prohibit a range of on-line activities, but, according to the Clean IT, ”this specification should not be very detailed.”.
The ambition of the EU to circumvent national laws to prohibit legal communications, is spelled out in the leaked document. ETRI notes that Clean IT encourages ISP:s to prohibit communication, ”which is perfectly legal”, with reference to business priorities. The way that the companies, in turn, will ”encouraged” to bring their ”business priorities” in line are also spelled out. Those who do not will be discriminated in future publice procurements and targeted by government ”PR” operations.
Secret list of participants, obvious alliances
The filtering companies participating in Clean IT’s secret deliberations are not listed on the consultation group’s website, although – according to EDRI – filtering company employees make up the majority of the participants in the organization’s meetings.
Obvoiusly, the beareucrats and the companies have found energetic political allies. That is clear from the names of two of the few organizations that allow themselves to be listed on Clean IT’s website:
• International Network Against Cyber Hate (INACH)
• International League Against Racism and Anti-semitism (LICRA)
Critics find it hard to believe that these political activist groups would travel to the meetings of Clean IT in order to take a break from their usual persecution of conservatives and nationalists, to suddenly enlist in the ”war on terror”. Instead they suspect that the Clean IT initiative is part of the anti-racism/pro-immigration lobby and its continuous effort to stifle the public opposition against liberal immigration policies.
Mainstream media response
On Friday 21/9 Telegraph published and well-written article where Clean IT’s budget (400000 Euro) was mentioned and Joe McNamee, the director of EDRI, gave comments.
However, in the morning of 24/9, the Telegraph article from the preceeding friday remains the only mass-media report of the remarkable document. Furthermore, the Telegraph article was not published on the front-page. It was published, or rather hidden, in the site’s dormant ”Technology” subsection, where it received a mere 16 reader comments during three days. For comparison, during one single day of publication in Sweden, on this rather unknown website, virtually the same article received over 100 comments.