12 Sep 2018

How the online tracking industry “informs” policy makers

By Yannic Blaschke

Following the entry into force of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the online advertising industry’s lobbying efforts moved to undermining the ePrivacy Regulation proposal. The Regulation, building on the GDPR, is designed to provide more specific provisions related to privacy and confidentiality of communications in the context of e-communications.

----------------------------------------------------------------- Support our work - make a recurrent donation! https://edri.org/supporters/ -----------------------------------------------------------------

For example, the ePrivacy Regulation will regulate the way in which online tracking companies operate and how the privacy of individuals can be further protected. In this context, lobbying groups for the booming online stalking industry are doing everything they can to label the protection of citizen’s privacy rights as harmful for the digital economy. As recent evidence shows, these efforts do not even stop at providing European Union policy makers with information that appears designed to mislead.

In a Euractiv.com op-ed, Dr. Johnny Ryan (Chief Policy & Industry Relations Officer at Brave Software), explained that “research” circulated by lobby group IAB Europe was dubious, at best. The “research” misleadingly misrepresented the revenues collected by European publishers from behavioural advertising, by including the advertising revenues of Google and Facebook – two powerful members of IAB (Google is a direct member, Facebook is taking part through its subsidiary company Atlas) who, in relation to this activity, are clearly not “publishers” in the sense of traditional news outlets.

In this context, it is all the more misleading that the research report spread by the IAB in September 2017 crams tech-giants and media-outlets together into the category of ‘publishers’. In an earlier position paper, the IAB stated that the proposed ePrivacy regulation would “derail European digital media outlets by significantly undermining their ability to generate enough revenue to create and provide free online content and services”. However, as Dr. Ryan reports, only a fraction of the claimed 10,6 billion euro revenue that European publishers allegedly made with behavioural advertising in 2016 actually goes to journalists and creative content providers.

Actively confusing the revenue of these actual publishers with the vast sums harvested by Google and Facebook through stalking online browsing behaviour (and, we have since learned, staking people’s location offline also), appears more than a little cynical. It is also a critical omission of information that reflects badly on the IAB’s respect for its oath to provide complete and non-misleading information, which they made as part of their registration for the EU Transparency Register. While the main advocate for companies whose aim it is to monitor European citizens’ every step on the internet has proved a flexible attitude to factual reporting in the past, this incident reaches a new level of flexibility with the truth.

EU parliamentarians and EU Member States need to question the supposed ‘economic value’ of ubiquitous monitoring on their voters. All the more, the evidence should also serve as a warning to the Austrian Council Presidency, which has pledged to “ensure strong privacy protection in electronic communications while also taking into account development opportunities for innovative services”. As it has been demonstrated, the alleged ‘development opportunities’ of behavioural advertising in the EU are mainly to the benefit of advertising duopoly. Will the Austrian presidency live up to its motto of a “Europe that protects” by supporting a strong ePrivacy regime?

Read more:

ePrivacy: Over-regulation or opportunity? (07.09.2018)

EU Council considers undermining ePrivacy (25.07.2018)

Your ePrivacy is nobody else’s business (30.05.2018)

Five things the online tracking industry gets wrong (13.09.2017)

Massive lobby against personal communications security has started (27.07.2016)

(Contribution by Yanic Blaschke, EDRi intern)



12 Sep 2018

Big Brother Awards 2018 Italy

By Hermes Center

The 2018 Italian edition of the Big Brother Awards was held in Bologna on 8 June 2018, with the support of a grant from the European Digital Rights Fund. The award ceremony took place during the 23rd edition of the E-privacy conference.

----------------------------------------------------------------- Support our work - make a recurrent donation! https://edri.org/supporters/ -----------------------------------------------------------------

The winners of the Italian Big Brother Awards 2018

Technological Threat:

The award was shared among:
● Amazon AWS IoT Services
● Google Cloud IoT
● Particle Industries, Inc.

The above companies sell IoT (internet of things) development and management services to IoT device developers and sellers. By doing so they create “walled gardens” where adopters and their users are captive, and they become a hub of data transmission from all devices.

National threat: Italian Parliament.

With no discussion at all, the Parliament silently inserted mandatory 6-year storage of telecommunications data and extended provisions on internet traffic data storage into a law pertaining to elevator safety rules.

International Threat: and Lifelong Threat: (Surprise, surprise!) Facebook

The win comes thanks to the Cambridge Analytica affair. Skipping technicalities, here is an extract from the prize explanation:

Is this a credible representation of the original: The recent scandals have led its founder [Mark Zuckerberg] to show disarming honesty. In a public hearing in the US Congress he showed the true nature of Facebook, which is not a social one but “Senator, we run ads”.”

Privacy Hero: Altroconsumo
The Italian consumer advocacy organization Altroconsumo that started the first consumer class action
against Facebook, asking for compensation due to unauthorized use of their personal data.

The full video of the ceremony (in Italian) can be accessed on the e-privacy site or directly on this link.

Read more:

Big Brother Awards – tips and materials for organisers (02.05.2018)

(Contribution by Hermes Center, EDRi member, Italy)



12 Sep 2018

Media reforms in Macedonia delayed due to more pressing security issues

By Metamorphosis

Recent political developments have affected the implementation of the reforms in the area of freedom of expression in Macedonia. The focus of government institutions on overcoming political obstacles to joining NATO and the EU had put most other reforms on the backburner.

----------------------------------------------------------------- Support our work with a one-off-donation! https://edri.org/donate/ -----------------------------------------------------------------

The political tension in the Republic of Macedonia has increased in recent months ahead of the referendum, scheduled for 30 September 2018, which will enable the voters to express their opinion on the agreement signed with Greece in June in order to solve the long-standing name dispute. Fulfilment of the agreement includes change of the name of the country to Republic of North Macedonia, which is precondition for lifting the Greek veto that had been preventing Macedonia from joining NATO and the EU. Joining these alliances had been a long-term strategic goal of the country, in particular as a safeguard against internal and regional security threats.

Civil society organisations dealing with media had warned that changes to the electoral code made in July 2018, ahead of the crucial September referendum on NATO and EU accession, would re-introduce government-funded advertising in the media, which was abolished as one of the first steps of the overall long-term reform process.

In order to fulfil the conditions for accession to the European Union, Macedonia is required to continue the process of institutional changes, based on the Urgent Reform Priorities set by the EU in 2016. The URP include re-examining of the legal framework affecting freedom of expression. The four key urgent reform priorities area in the field of media and freedom of expression include:

1. Reform of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in order to ensure its independence and increase the quality of its reporting and overall content production.
2. Establishing mechanisms for transparency and accountability with regard to government advertising.
3. Addressing the main obstacles which journalists face in obtaining access to public information.
4. Revising the legal and procedural rules related to defamation, and promotion of self-regulation and arbitration as alternative to court actions.

The pace of these reforms, which started in June 2017, when the new, pro-EU and pro-NATO government came into power, has been uneven and incomplete. According to the most recent periodical report by the Observatory of Media Reforms (OMR), a monitoring project by EDRi member Metamorphosis and partner civil society organisations PINA and Agora, most of the reforms had been only “partially fulfilled,” and some, like defamation legislation, has not been tackled at all.

Reform of the PBS at a standstill

The reform of the PBS is related to a wider reform of several so-called ‘media laws’ (Law on media, Law on audio and audiovisual media services, etc.) which also affect the composition and the mandate of governing bodies of the PBS and of regulatory institutions, in particular the Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services. While the government has started the process of changing these laws, by the summer of 2018 it has come to a standstill due to complex set of influences.The government mainly has been pointing to filibustering by the parliamentary opposition as key obstacle, blaming the former ruling party for attempting to keep in office the members of governing bodies appointed by them. However, civil society has stressed the need to build public consensus on the final form of these laws in order to prevent setting legal loopholes which would enable the executive to exert undue power.

Meanwhile, the situation in the PBS Macedonian Radio and Television has been deteriorating, as it has been failing in its basic task to strengthen the cohesion of the society by providing unbiased information catering to the needs of all citizens, including various ethnic communities. Research by the OMR revealed severe lack of capacities, both financial and technical, including human resources.

Government advertising halted, then reintroduced with Electoral Code amendments

In August 2017, the government declared that it will cease commercial advertising in the media and that it would continue to communicate with the public through the PBS and its social media presences, including sponsored Facebook ads. While not providing explanations about several specific issues within this area, for the most part of its first year in power it indeed ceased the flow of public money into private media, which was a key source of media corruption during the previous decade.
Legislative changes to the Electoral Code related to the implementation of the referendum, passed through fast-track procedure in July 2018, include provisions that the State Election Commission (SEC) can impose fines on the media for ‘unbalanced reporting’ and allow use of taxpayers’ money by state bodies for media campaigns.

Fearing that new legislation can “legitimize political propaganda in the media paid for by taxpayers’ money” several civil society organizations—the Association of Journalists of Macedonia (AJM), the Independent Union of Journalists and Media Workers (SSNM), the Council on Media Ethics in Macedonia (CMEM), Macedonian Institute for Media (MIM) and the Institute of Communication Studies (IKS)—condemned the interpretation of the new legislation by the SEC.

These organisations also started advocacy efforts warning various stakeholders about the possible negative consequences, which had been supported by European Federation of Journalists, and alerted the Council of Europe. AJM “expressed great concern about the recent amendments to the Election Code for the legalization of political propaganda in the media with public money and the indirect regulation of the online media, which could have a negative effect on the freedom of the media.”

Delayed consultations on Freedom of Information Law and other laws stalled

In August 2017, the Macedonian government started “addressing the main obstacles which journalists face in obtaining public information” by declassifying a range of documents which had previously been classified within the state institutions. It also provided free access for journalists to public interest databases owned by two state institutions.

The journalist community also demanded amending the Law for Free Access to Information of Public Character, in particular in regards to shortening the response deadlines. While the government indeed started the process of legislative changes, including public consultations on this law from January 2018, its conclusion is still pending. As the draft law has not yet been proposed, the Observatory rated this priority “partially fulfilled.”

In addition, no revision of the regulations related to defamation has been launched, in particular with regard to the Law for Civic Responsibility for Libel and Insult, as well as related procedural rules, which need to be aligned with the practice of the European Court of Human Rights, and the recommendation of the Senior Experts’ Group on systemic Rule of Law issues led by former European Commissioner Reinhard Priebe. While it expressed strong political will to support the self-regulation mechanisms, the government had not adopted concrete measures to do so. The Observatory considered this priority “completely unfulfilled.”

Like with other reform processes that had been put on hold due to the most urgent priority in recent history of Republic of Macedonia, the changes of media legislature are expected to continue after the 30 September referendum.

Read more:

Observatory of Media Reforms – OMR (available in Macedonian and Albanian only)

Current Media Laws, on the website of the Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services

Changes of media legislation in Macedonia are guided by the Urgent Reform Priorities

Urgent Reform Priorities

Experts and journalists target AAVMU bill once again (19.04.2018)

Final Agreement for the Settlement on the Name Issue (11.06.2018)

Manchevski: The opposition has been filibustering the media laws for four months (12.06.2018)

SEC has no right to impose media presentation for the referendum (07.08.2018)

Macedonia: Election Commission authorized to fine media for ‘Unbalanced Reporting’ (13.08.2018)

MTV is on life support, has weak video signal and the secondary audio programming is nowhere near implementation (30.11.2017)

(Contribution by EDRi member Matamorphosis, Macedonia)



12 Sep 2018

Press Release: EU Parliament flip-flops backwards on copyright


On 12 September 2018, the European Parliament (EP) adopted amendments to the European Commission’s draft EU Copyright Directive, as a result of the EP’s previous rejection of the Legal Affairs Committee’s proposals as basis for negotiations with the EU Council.

The Parliament’s today vote represents a backwards flip-flop to supporting measures which it had previously dismissed.

Negotiations will start between the Parliament and the EU Council: a proposal that coerces internet companies into monitoring, filtering and blocking our uploads versus one that more explicitly forces internet companies into monitoring, filtering and blocking our uploads. The result will be a cocktail of both poisons, to be put to a final vote just a few short months before the 2019 European Parliament elections.

– said Diego Naranjo, EDRi Senior Policy Analyst

The aftermath of a law that regulates all internet companies in Europe as if they were Google and Facebook is clear: an internet in Europe where only Google and Facebook can survive. If such policies are approved, the Copyright Directive reform will be an act of outstanding self-harm for both European citizens and European businesses.

EDRi will continue to follow closely with the file’s next steps and advocate for putting Europeans’ rights and freedoms at the forefront of the negotiations with EU’s Council on the Copyright Directive reform. Next step: the final vote on the agreement between the Council and Parliament – expected in January 2019.



Read more:

Copyright: Compulsory filtering instead of obligatory filtering – a compromise? [4.09.2018]

Press Release: EU Parliamentarians support an open, democratic debate on Copyright Directive [05.07.2018]

Moving Parliament’s copyright discussions into the public domain [27.06.2018]

Copyright reform: Document pool


12 Sep 2018

Joint Press Release: EU Terrorism Regulation – an EU election tactic


The European Commission’s apparently endless stream of “solutions” to stop the spread of online terrorist content has today been complemented by yet another measure, a draft Regulation.

Despite a pile of existing tools and expired implementation deadlines, the European Commission has hurriedly published, under the pressure of Germany and France, a new Regulation that addresses (yet again) deleting or disabling access to terrorist content by online companies. The alleged urgency and importance of this proposal need to be seen in the context of the upcoming European elections and terrorism as a leading election topic in recent years.

“Eight months away from the EU elections, it is regrettable that the Commission proposes (yet again) new legislation with minimal regard for effectiveness or for fundamental rights – the pillars of our democracy,”

said Maryant Fernández Pérez, Senior Policy Advisor at European Digital Rights (EDRi).

“The Commission has an obligation under the Terrorism Directive to assess its impact on human rights by 2021. Instead of analysing the impact of existing initiatives, the Commission has proposed yet more ill-defined measures,” she added.

The proposal contains three main measures to address alleged “terrorist” content.

  • First, it creates orders issued by (undefined) national authorities to remove or disable access to illegal terrorist content within an hour.
  • Second, competent authorities can choose to make referrals of terrorist-related potential breaches of companies’ terms of service that would be subject to the voluntary consideration of the companies themselves.
  • Third, it legislates on (undefined) proactive measures that can lead to an authority requesting a general monitoring obligation.

This means that for the first time, the Commission is proposing the possibility of an explicit derogation from Article 15 of the e-commerce Directive which prevents governments from requiring internet companies to monitor everything we say and publish online.

“The Commission’s proposal fails to provide any meaningful evidence on how this regulation will prevent the dissemination of alleged terrorist content online while it puts fundamental rights such as freedom of expression and privacy at risk”

said Fanny Hidvegi, European Policy Manager at Access Now.

“The EU Commission should not make the usual mistake of rushing legislation under the political pressure of Member States and the upcoming European elections.”, she added.

The proposed Regulation follows the release of a Communication on removal of online illegal content in 2017, a similar Recommendation  in March 2018, pressure on the Commission from Germany and France in April 2018 and the September 2018 deadline for the implementation of the Terrorism Directive that already covers blocking and removals of terrorist content.

Further, the proposed Regulation builds on the internationally criticised EU’s headlong rush to implement one-size-fits-all automated content filters to somehow solve diverse types of illegal content online. This is a topic that will not only, it appears, serve as a fruitful platform for European election candidates, but also as a normalisation discourse on the privatisation of law enforcement in the hands of internet giants.

European Digital Rights (EDRi) and Access Now will follow closely the development of the file in the upcoming period and work to create a sustainable approach to tackling the spread of online terrorist content that does not keep watering down people’s existing rights and freedoms.

Read more:

Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on preventing the dissemination of terrorist content online

LEAK: France & Germany demand more censorship from internet companies [07.06.2018]

Commission’s position on tackling illegal content online is contradictory and dangerous for free speech [28.09.2017]

EU Commission’s Recommendation: Let’s put internet giants in charge of censoring Europe [1.03.2018]

Terrorism Directive – Document Pool


11 Sep 2018

Anatomy of a Commission press campaign. Case study: Terrorist Content Regulation

By Joe McNamee

On 12 September, the European Commission will propose a new legislative tool: the Regulation on preventing dissemination of “terrorist content”. However, the Commission is politically very exposed due to its incoherent approach to illegal content online. In an attempt to mitigate a possible critical public opinion, the European Commission is trying to engage strategically with the press so that it only reports positively on the Commission’s spin.

The Commission launched a first press cycle in August, which is a quiet news month, where journalists have difficulty finding stories. It informally fed the story to the Financial Times, with no detail, about how it was going to “get tough” (again!) on internet companies. That caused a press cycle that reflected the Commission’s spin with no other information available from other sources.

Then, on 12 September, the Commission is expected to launch the proposal, using Commission President Juncker’s “state of the union” speech to distract the public attention from anything but the most superficial details. We expect the Commission to overwhelm journalists with publication of an unmanageable amount of documents:

  • the proposal, its explanatory memorandum and annex;
  • an impact assessment listing the various options that were nominally “reviewed” before the political choice to have a Regulation was chosen;
  • the outcome of the public consultation on illegal content online, divided between the various stakeholder groups and spin by the Commission;
  • and, of course, a press release about getting tough on internet companies and, yet again, about the Commission getting tough on terror.

Journalists will have no option but running a story that sets out only the Commission’s approach to the regulation. That’s the second press cycle. A third press cycle could be one where journalists would have the time to do a critical analysis of what is proposed. The problem is that European proposals do not get three press cycles.

After being told by French and German Interior Ministers to prepare an EU Regulation on preventing dissemination of “terrorist content”, the European Commission got to work over the summer this year. This is a political problem for the Commission because Commissioners took an oath not to receive such instruction. Worse still, the Commission has consistently failed to provide a comprehensive approach to tackling illegal content online based on evidence, not on political spin.

For example, we can highlight:

Worse still, the Regulation is the third instrument (not including the Terrorism Directive, which was due to be implemented by Member States by 8 September) launched in a vacuum of research in the past 12 months. Such evidence-free policy-making stands in glaring contradiction with the Commission’s “Better Regulation Agenda”.

So, how can the Commission get good publicity out of the new Regulation, while avoiding scrutiny of the apparent failure of the other conveyor belt of instruments it launched in recent years? Simple but rigorous press management is all that is needed, apparently.


11 Sep 2018

Deconstructing an MEP’s support for the Copyright Directive

By Joe McNamee

After the European Parliament voted against the negotiating mandate for the Copyright Directive, the assistant of a Member of the European Parliament,one of its supporters, wrote to a voter to explain why she supports the proposal.

Shortly before the UK leaves the European Union, she explains why she wants this legislation to be imposed on the countries that are staying. The e-mail provides interesting insights into why these bad policies are being supported, the main insight being that support is based on myths and fallacies.

The protection of individual user data and the freedom to access and share news and articles online are of paramount concern to Labour MEPs and they are committed to ensure that these freedoms are maintained and strengthened. Therefore, citizens’ concerns surrounding these issues will be at the forefront of Labour MEPs minds as the legislative proposals pass through the European Parliament.

The proposals have been discussed for two years and the MEP voted to end discussions in the European Parliament. She voted instead to start secretive closed-door meetings (“trilogues”) with the EU Member States. Once such confidential discussions end, the Parliament is always under severe pressure to accept the entire “compromise” deal. Even if (having voted for a negotiating mandate for a text that unquestionably would restrict the right to share news online), these issues were at the forefront of MEPs’ minds, there would be, in practice, nothing they could do to mitigate the damage done by the negotiating mandate.

In reforming EU copyright rules, the European Commission has aimed to make outdated rules suitable for the digital era, as they currently do not offer enough protection against piracy and the use of content without proper remuneration. At the same time, this will be balanced by offering citizens greater legal certainty when accessing content online.

Even if the European Commission “aimed” to update outdated rules, this does not mean that they succeeded, nor should the policies be unquestioningly supported. The job of the Parliament is not to blindly support the European Commission. The reference to “accessing” content is very telling – Article 13 is about using the internet to share, create and communicate – not “access” content, like one accesses TV stations. This is precisely why the Directive is not an “update”, but an attempt to wind back the clock to a viewer/producer model to a time before the open internet.

The “Press Publishers Right,” found in Article 11 of the current proposal would be an important step to protect our free and professional press, if adopted by the European Parliament, as it will ensure that they would receive proper remuneration for the online exploitation of their content.”

When this “right” was introduced in Spain, the biggest news aggregator (Google News) shut down, to the detriment of smaller news publishers.

When this “right” was introduced in Germany, the biggest news aggregator (Google News) was allowed not to pay, to the detriment of smaller news aggregators.

It is simply and demonstrably false to argue that this “would be an important” step in protecting the free and professional press, when experience shows that this is not true.

The proposals would give press publishers the same rights as individual journalists and photographers to license their content. Whilst examining this proposal, Labour MEPs have paid particular attention to ensure that no liability is attributed to individual users, but rather the service providers, such as social media platforms, who use content without a licence. Article 11 does not create a “link tax,” and using or sharing hyperlinks is explicitly excluded from the scope of the report.

No liability is attributed to individual users, because it is far easier to pursue a small number of social media companies than millions of individuals. By creating a new right for snippets of text, any quotation that is longer than short (whatever that means – the same quotation could be legal in one language and illegal in another), it becomes difficult to link because the link cannot be accompanied by a quotation indicating what can be found at that address. Worse still, any quotation that is longer than short would also fall under the filtering obligations in Article 13 of the Directive. So, any attempt to share quotations from news sources (unless from a state-sponsored propaganda outlet, for example) would be difficult, if not impossible. So much for supporting the “free and professional press”. RT if you agree…

Labour MEPs are also particularly conscious that whilst this right improves the position of press publishers, individual authors such as journalists should also benefit from the proposals and have therefore backed modifications to ensure that this is the case.

The implicit assertion that all journalists support this proposal is simply not correct.

Regarding the proposed Article 13, the aim is to provide legal clarity as to where the liability lies for copyrighted content uploaded on video platforms.

The aim is irrelevant, the actual text is all that is relevant. In any event, the assertion is factually untrue. Article 13 does not mention video platforms. The proposal covers all types of content (audio, text, image, etc) on all platforms covered by the unclear definition.

Under the Commission proposal, platforms such as YouTube and Daily Motion would be responsible for taking reasonable steps to ensure that any copyrighted content is either properly licensed or taken down.

The is the existing legal framework. The proposal is that upload filters (“content recognition technologies”) should be used to “prevent” content from being uploaded.

“This may necessitate the use of content recognition technologies, which are already used to ensure that inappropriate content such as hate speech or terrorist propaganda does not appear on video platforms and does not require any analysis of user data nor reveals the identity of the user.”

It is not possible to comply with the obligations in Article 13 without using upload filters. Therefore “it may necessitate” is misleading. It will necessitate upload filters – unquestionably

The reference to “already used” is misleading as upload filters are already used by the biggest providers, not by all providers. Just because Google does something – and lobbies for something – does not mean it is a good idea. It is interesting to note that the reference is to “inappropriate” (as defined by the platforms) and not “illegal” content, as defined by law.

“The content recognition technologies assess the content of the video alone, to ascertain whether or not it is, for instance, a popular music video which has not been licensed. In order to reassure individual users, the proposal envisages a complaints mechanism to ensure that users know why their content has constituted an infringement of copyright, and Labour MEPs support modifications to the proposal that would clarify that individual users will not be held liable for copyright infringement.”

Content recognition technologies would also be used to block quotations, parodies, memes, etc., not just if it was a complete music video. The proposal is that “identified” content be blocked, not only infringements.

Internet companies will only be obliged to implement a complaints mechanism if they remove content explicitly because of copyright law. If they say it is a “terms of service” violation, they could easy avoid the expense of implementing complaints. This is exactly what happens in relation to “hate speech” deleted under the European Commission’s hate speech code of conduct, for example.

Read more:

The EU gets another opportunity to improve copyright rules (25.07.2018)

EP Plenary on the Copyright Directive – Who voted what? (23.07.2018)

Press Release: EU Parliamentarians support an open, democratic debate on Copyright Directive (05.07.2018)

Copyright reform: Document pool


10 Sep 2018

Censorship Machines or citizens? EU Parliament decides on Wednesday

By Diego Naranjo

On Wednesday 12 September 2018 at noon, the European Parliament will be voting again on the copyright Directive.

As EDRi and 57 other NGOs have been saying since the proposal was launched, and it has been said by academia, the UN Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Internet luminaries, and many others Article 13 of the Directive is a fundamentally flawed proposal.

The vote in July prevented the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee from entering directly into secret negotiations (called trilogues) with the EU Council and there has been a little more time to keep debating different aspects of the Directive and to propose new alternative texts (amendments). These new amendments were discussed over the last two weeks, in closed-door meetings in the Parliament.

These amendments go from making the text even more unclear and damaging (the ones proposed by the Rapporteur Axel Voss MEP and Cavada MEP) to deletion and almost everything in between.

The best option for dealing with a bad proposal is to delete it, so this is what MEPs should be asked to vote for. However, the EU works on the basis of compromise, and some MEPs may not wish to vote for outright rejection. In that case, we would encourage those MEPs who won’t ask for deletion that to support the amendment from the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee (IMCO), which is a compromise that has received significant cross-party support.

If you have not contacted your MEP yet, you still have time! Go to www.saveyourinternet.eu and call, tweet or email your MEP and let them know your opposition to upload filters.

Read more:

Copyright: Compulsory filtering instead of obligatory filtering – a compromise? (04.08.2018)

EP Plenary on the Copyright Directive – Who voted what? (23.07.2018)

Press Release: EU Parliamentarians support an open, democratic debate on Copyright Directive (05.07.2018)

Action plan against the first obligatory EU internet filter (28.06.2018)

Moving Parliament’s copyright discussions into the public domain (27.06.2018)


04 Sep 2018

Copyright: Compulsory filtering instead of obligatory filtering – a compromise?

By Diego Naranjo

Tomorrow, 5 September 2018 at 12h CEST, is the deadline to table amendments to the proposed Copyright Directive. The new deadline for amendments to the text was opened as a result of the vote last 5 July. At that vote, the Parliament decided not to give the mandate to negotiate to the JURI Committee on the basis of the text it had previously adopted.

Last Friday, Rapporteur Axel Voss MEP sent his colleagues a proposal for a “compromise” that he characterised as “balanced”. Mr Voss claims the new text does not contain obligatory filtering and therefore is a real compromise.

It is true that the text no longer contains the wording of “prevent the availability” or “content recognition technologies”. Instead, the ”compromise” states simply that any platform that helps users to share content (“content sharing service providers”) will have full liability for every piece of content hosted at their servers.

If adopted, platforms that host content would have no option other than to implement upload filters, as they would be liable for every single upload from every single user – a risk that no commercial company could afford. Platforms have no choice other than to filter in an unaccountable regime that offers users no real redress mechanisms. This is not a compromise, but a more insidious effort to achieve the same result – mass filtering.

Read more:

EP Plenary on the Copyright Directive – Who voted what? (23.07.2018)

Press Release: EU Parliamentarians support an open, democratic debate on Copyright Directive (05.07.2018)

Action plan against the first obligatory EU internet filter (28.06.2018)

Moving Parliament’s copyright discussions into the public domain (27.06.2018)


29 Aug 2018

What’s your trustworthiness according to Facebook? Find out!

By Bits of Freedom

On 21 August 2018 it was revealed that Facebook rates the trustworthiness of its users in its attempt to tackle misinformation. But how does Facebook judge you, what are the consequences and… how do you score? Ask Facebook by exercising your access right!

----------------------------------------------------------------- Support our work with a one-off-donation! https://edri.org/donate/ -----------------------------------------------------------------

Your reputation is 0 or 1

In an interview with the Washington Post, the product manager who is in charge of fighting misinformation at Facebook, said that one of the factors the company uses to determine if you’re spreading “fake news”, is a so-called “trustworthiness score”. (Users are assigned a score of 0 or 1.) In addition to this score, Facebook apparently also uses many other indicators to judge its users. For example, it takes into account if you abuse the option to flag messages.

Lots of questions

The likelihood of you spreading misinformation (whatever that means) appears to be decided by an algorithm. But how does Facebook determine a user’s score? For which purposes will this score be used and what if the score is incorrect?

Facebook has objected to the description of this system as reputation rating. To the BBC a spokesperson responded: “The idea that we have a centralised ‘reputation’ score for people that use Facebook is just plain wrong and the headline in the Washington Post is misleading.”

It’s unclear exactly how the headline is misleading, because if you’d turn it into a question “Is Facebook rating the trustworthiness of its users?” the answer would be yes. In any event, the above questions remain unanswered. That is unacceptable, because Facebook is not just any old actor. Together with a handful of other tech giants, the company plays an important role in how we communicate and which information we send and receive. The decisions Facebook makes about you have impact. Therefore, assigning you a trustworthiness score comes with great responsibility.

Facebook has to share your score with you

At the very least, such a system should be fair and transparent. If mistakes are made, there should be an easy way for users to have those mistakes rectified. According to Facebook, however, this basic level of courtesy is not possible, because it could lead to people gaming the system.

However, with the new European privacy rules (GDPR) in force, Facebook cannot use this reason as an excuse for dodging these important questions and keeping its trustworthiness assessment opaque. As a Facebook user living in the EU, you have the right to access the personal data Facebook has about you. If these data are incorrect you have the right to rectify them.

Assuming that your trustworthiness score is the result of an algorithm crunching the data Facebook collects about you, and taking into account that this score can have a significant impact, you also have the right to receive meaningful information about the underlying logic of your score and you should be able to contest your score.

Send an access request

Do you live in the European Union and do you want to exercise your right to obtain your trustworthiness score? Send an access request to Facebook! You can send your request by post, email or by using Facebook’s online form. To help you with exercising your access right, Bits of Freedom created a request letter for you. You can find it here.

Read more:

Example of request letter to send by regular mail (.odt file download link)

Example text to use for email / online form (.odt file download link)

Don’t make your community Facebook-dependent! (21.02.2018)

Press Release: “Fake news” strategy needs to be based on real evidence, not assumption (26.04.2018)

(Contribution by David Korteweg, EDRi member Bits of Freedom, the Netherlands)