Across Europe, MEPs voted successfully to redesign the Internet with a censorship directive disguised as a copyright proposal, while the UK itself passed a horrifying terror bill that will make it illegal to watch any "terrorist propaganda" (not clearly defined) which carries sentencing of 15 years, an age restriction porn law and introduced the world's first Internet regulation safety agency.
ACTA 2 which required all the dirty tricks in the book to pass the initial vote, has now passed in a vote of 22 countries in favor of the law.
Only six countries - Italy, Sweden, Poland, Finland, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg - voted against the proposed directive that will change the Internet as we know it.
This means that EU member countries have two years to comply by drafting their own national laws. This is sure to spur protests and legal battles all over Europe for the next few years.
The directive was passed despite more than 5.2 million people who signed an online petition calling to save the Internet and abandon the legalese.
Throughout the voting process, there were numerous tricks by EPP Group and other political parties involved in the copyright directive, or ACTA 2, such as attempting to change the voting date, intimidating politicians by threatening them with bad press, and even changing the article numbers prior to the vote.
Julia Reda✔@Senficon · Mar 26, 2019Replying to @Senficon
The plenary debate on #copyright is about to start, watch live: #SaveYourInternet #Article11 #Article13 http://www.europarl.europa.eu/plenary/en/home.html ...
In the plenary debate, MEP Konečná speaks of threats having been issued by press publishers against MEPs who plan to vote against the #copyright deal. #Article11 #SaveYourInternet
1,4697:22 PM - Mar 26, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy
If that wasn't enough, a report by a German publication has revealed that the real reason Germany caved to France in February is because the country was bribed in negotiations to get approval for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has previously warned that the proposed policies within ACTA 2 will increase censorship and surveillance throughout Europe and create a Stasi state. The digital rights organization specifically calls on people from Germany, Sweden, Poland, and Luxembourg, to speak out.
"Your national government depends on your goodwill to win the votes to continue its mandate. This is a rare moment in European lawmaking when local connections from citizens matter more than well-funded, international corporations," EFF writes.
EFF notes that the petition was created because the law will inevitably lead to the creation of algorithmic copyright filters that only US Big Tech companies can afford (making the field less competitive and thus harder for working artists to negotiate better deals in), and because these filters will censor enormous quantities of legitimate material.
As Activist Post has continuously reported, Article 13 is designed to make website owners responsible for the content that users post on their websites, effectively forcing website owners to move behind an upload filter to protect themselves against huge claims by copyright owners and agencies that work on their behalfs like the MPAA and RIAA. Article 11 is an even worse concept. That has been dubbed the "link tax" article; if passed, linking to any copyrighted material is taxed upon.
Pirate Party Germany member Julia Reda notes the final horrifying shocking changes made to the bill in a blog post.
- Commercial sites and apps where users can post material must make "best efforts" to preemptively buy licences for anything that users may possibly upload - that is: all copyrighted content in the world. An impossible feat.
- In addition, all but very few sites (those both tiny and very new) will need to do everything in their power to prevent anything from ever going online that may be an unauthorised copy of a work that a rightsholder has registered with the platform. They will have no choice but to deploy upload filters, which are by their nature both expensive and error-prone.
- Should a court ever find their licensing or filtering efforts not fierce enough, sites are directly liable for infringements as if they had committed them themselves. This massive threat will lead platforms to over-comply with these rules to stay on the safe side, further worsening the impact on our freedom of speech.
Reda also expresses that for the link tax, there will be extra copyright for news sites, like the one you are reading now.
- Reproducing more than "single words or very short extracts" of news stories will require a licence. That will likely cover many of the snippets commonly shown alongside links today in order to give you an idea of what they lead to. We will have to wait and see how courts interpret what "very short" means in practice - until then, hyperlinking (with snippets) will be mired in legal uncertainty.
- No exceptions are made even for services run by individuals, small companies or non-profits, which probably includes any monetized blogs or websites.
UK Porn Ban
Meanwhile, in the UK the government has just announced that its proposed "porn ban" will go into effect on July 15th of this year.
All Internet users in the UK will be forced to prove they are over 18 or be entirely blocked from seeing adult content on the Web, The Independent reported.
Under the new rules, any provider of online pornography will be forced to implement "robust age-verification checks on users" to ensure their customers are adults.
These checks could include having Internet users enter personal details into a privately owned database or purchase a pass to view content. There will be a number of different ways to prove your age, the government said, all of which will be "rigorous" and will be much more then just typing details into a checkbox.
If pornographic websites fail to comply with the rules, they could have payment services withdrawn or be blocked for all UK users.
UK Insane Terrorism Law
If all that wasn't enough, the UK has also passed one of the most draconian pieces of legislation on viewing terrorist propaganda in the history of the Internet.
The new law has been deemed a "thought crime" by United Nations inspector Professor Joe Cannataci who has said it seemed "arbitrary" and added: "It seems to be pushing a bit too much towards thought crime...the difference between forming the intention to do something and then actually carrying out the act is still fundamental to criminal law."
A number of new rules mean people can be jailed for viewing terrorist propaganda online, entering "designated areas" abroad, and making "reckless expressions" of support for certain groups.
The designated areas have not been defined by the government yet; however, they are expected to include territory controlled by terrorist groups and war zones throughout the Middle East. Although, the law has an exception for individuals who were forced involuntarily to remain in one of those areas.
After NGOs raised human rights concerns, further exemptions include humanitarian work, journalism, and funerals.
The government also lengthened prison sentences for several terror offenses, ended automatic early release for those convicted of terrorist actions and put them under a stricter monitoring process after they are freed from prison.
UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid said the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019 gives "police the powers they need to disrupt terrorist plots earlier and ensure that those who seek to do us harm face just punishment."
"As we saw in the deadly attacks in London and Manchester in 2017, the threat from terrorism continues to evolve and so must our response, which is why these vital new measures have been introduced," Javid added.
A detailed report by the Joint Committee on Human Rights also stated that the offense being punishable by up to 15 years in prison, "is a breach of the right to receive information and risks criminalizing legitimate research and curiosity."
The obvious question one is left wondering is who decides what is "terrorist propaganda"? Is it only defined as ISIS/al-Qaeda, or is the definition much broader to possibly include protesters against the government in the future? We will have to of course wait and see.
UK Creation of First Internet Regulator
This all comes on the heels of the UK wanting to establish the world's first independent regulator to keep social media companies in check, as CNET reported.
This agency will be designed to make the Internet a safer place. The new regulation firm was jointly announced by the Home Office and Department of Culture, Media and Sport. The government white paper, titled Online Harms, published Monday in the UK, outlines "plans for a world-leading package of online safety measures."
"The White Paper proposes establishing in law a new duty of care towards users, which will be overseen by an independent regulator. Companies will be held to account for tackling a comprehensive set of online harms, ranging from illegal activity and content to behaviors which are harmful but not necessarily illegal," the release reads.
All social media companies, file-hosting sites, online forums, messaging services, and search engines will be required to tackle the following issues:
- Incitement of violence and the spread of violent (including terrorist) content
- Encouragement of self-harm or suicide
- The spread of disinformation and fake news
- Children's access to inappropriate material
- Child exploitation and abuse content
While putting an age-restriction filter behind online porn may seem like the right thing to do, introducing an upload filter, introducing an Internet regulator agency and punishing the right to receive information risks punishing legitimate uses of the free Internet. Because of these new measures combined with systems already in place, we are only one step away from the greater tyranny of the death of freedom of information.
Numerous digital rights groups have stated the harsh regulation regime proposed could lead to free speech and privacy violations.
"This is an unprecedented attack on freedom of speech that will see internet giants monitoring the communications of billions and censoring lawful speech," Big Brother Watch said in a tweet.
This is leading to a "splinternet," a term made popular last year by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt who predicted that the Internet would collapse into two parts: one led by the Chinese and the other led by the U.S. Although Schmidt didn't mention the UK, the former EU country seems to be leading the effort along with current European Union member countries.
A recent Associated Free Press article entitled: "Breaking the internet: new regulations imperil global network," highlights the key problem with individual countries creating their own regulatory laws for a system that was created to enable connectivity amongst nations without borders. The Internet is global, a World Wide Web, so this means that website owners will have to conform to multiple countries' laws; this stifles not only freedom of information, but can also harm small businesses that aren't corporate giants like Google or Facebook.
Further, as a result, conflicting Internet legislation by multiple countries will ultimately fragment information across networks and countries. Already, with the passing of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) as Gizmodo reported, we have seen this taking form.
Now, if you visit dozens of American news websites from an EU-based IP address some of the news sites state the following or something similar, "Unfortunately, our website is currently unavailable in most European countries. We are engaged on the issue and committed to looking at options that support our full range of digital offerings to the EU market. We continue to identify technical compliance solutions that will provide all readers with our award-winning journalism."
Internet regulation fascism is rising and it doesn't appear to be stopping anytime soon. The question must be asked: where is Anonymous which aided in helping stop past Orwellian Internet legislation? It seems everyone has been quiet despite this ongoing recent push to take away all of our free Internet Rights and freedoms one country at a time.
If Internet rights and freedoms are to be kept, then the people need to come together, rise up and protest their governments like never before and let their voices, keystrokes, and digital sit-ins be heard and felt worldwide. Otherwise, we risk entering into an era that will be known as the 21st-century dark ages where information is forgotten due to policing, censorship through upload filters or accused terrorist propaganda content, and generally lost due to not being able to pay for every external link on a website (link tax.) There is no going back once these systems and infrastructure regulatory agencies are in place.
Aaron Kesel writes for Activist Post. Support us at Patreon. Follow us on Minds, Steemit, SoMee, BitChute, Facebook and Twitter. Ready for solutions? Subscribe to our premium newsletter Counter Markets.