Macedonian draft law may introduce online censorship
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Deutsch: Mazedonien: Neues Gesetz könnte zu Internetzensur führen
A draft law on civil liability for insult and defamation related to communication over the Internet, which has passed the first reading in the Macedonian Parliament, may lead to strong censorship of the Internet.
According to the draft law, online service providers are liable for penalties, along with the author, for any damage resulting from offensive or defamatory information the provider has allowed access to, unless it can prove the author of the respective information “was not acting under direct or indirect control or influence by the online service provider”, and that it “was neither aware, nor that it should have been aware of the offensive or libellous material posted on the web portal, or that within 24 hours after becoming aware of the offensive and defamatory nature of the published text or information, the provider has taken all the technical and other measures for the removal of such information.”
This actually eludes the presumption of innocence, the service providers being in the position of defending their innocence instead of the plaintiff offering evidence of guilt or malicious intent.
Most worryingly, the term “online service provider” is extremely ambiguous and vague so that it could refer to any service provider including forums, instant messaging, blogs, so much the more as those allow for third party comments on posts. The judge will be the one to decide what and who can be considered as online service provider that allows someone to post an offending comment or link on a certain post.
The draft law will thus inevitably lead to service providers censoring the content posted on their platforms in order to avoid becoming liable for damages and being in the situation of having to pay fines of up to 27 000 Euro. This may also open the door to abuse.
Actually, the proposed law is unconstitutional being contrary to the fundamental principles of freedom of speech and censorship prohibition contained in Article 16 of the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia.
Several recommendations of media experts and journalists for improving the law came from participants to a debate organized by the Media Development Center (MDC). One of the main provisions of the law that should be amended without any doubt, is the division of responsibility and the fine between the journalist, editor and owner, if defamation is confirmed.
A strong reaction from the Macedonian online community was focused on a blackout of Macedonian websites on 8 October 2012, with numerous sites joining in.
Macedonia: Danger of censorship with the new Law on insult and
Macedonia: Law on defamation instigates censorship and contains
illogical provisions (8.10.2012)
Draft Law (only in Macedonian)
Graph with blackout websites issued by Free Software Macedonia (only in