By Guest author

On 5 July 2016, the Dutch parliament voted against the introduction of an internet filter. Such a filter would be ineffective and would undermine trust in digital infrastructure.

The internet filter was proposed as part of new legislation to regulate online gambling in the Netherlands. Currently, online gambling is prohibited. Of course, this doesn’t deter people from placing bets on illegal websites. The proposed law not only legalises online gambling, but considerably expands the Dutch Gambling Authority’s enforcement powers.

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The proposed internet filter would have worked by manipulating certain types of traffic, most notably the Domain Name System (DNS) which is used for hostname to IP-address translation. Had the law been approved without change, internet providers would be forced by the government to render illegal gambling sites unreachable by interfering with users’ traffic – a practice we deem completely undesirable of others and normally label as criminal.

In a debate in the Dutch parliament last week, the undersecretary of the Ministry of Security and Justice recognised the fact that such a filter can be circumvented fairly easily. He also acknowledged the risk of function creep: a measure introduced for one particular goal sees over time an array of other applications. We know, for example, that the representatives of the entertainment industry, who have nothing to do with gambling, lobbied in favour of the filter. The government recognises these problems and did not object to the removal of the internet filter from the list of powers of the Gambling Authority, as proposed by the social-liberal political party D66.

D66 argued that the government should refrain from interfering with the core and key protocols of the internet. Users should be able to trust the network and were that trust to be undercut, it would impede on the users’ freedoms. The liberals of People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) also supported the removal of the internet filter from the law, considering its limited effectiveness. The Dutch Gambling Authority still has quite a few other powers to intervene when necessary, such as taking down illegal gambling sites altogether and blocking financial transactions. D66’s amendment also gained support from the social democrats of the Labour Party (PvdA), the second member of the ruling coalition. A member of parliament said in an op-ed that “North Korean measures, such as internet filters, do not solve the problems surrounding gambling.”

This was confirmed by a leak of a draft Commission Communication on gambling in 2011 although, unsurprisingly, that confirmation was deleted before the final text of the Communication was published.

The Dutch EDRi member Bits of Freedom is pleased with the outcome of the voting. A reliable internet is not only of great importance to innovation and economic growth, but essential for the protection of our freedoms.

The article was originally published on https://www.bof.nl/2016/07/05/dutch-parliament-votes-against-internet-filter/.

Amendment proposed to remove internet filter (only in Dutch)
https://zoek.officielebekendmakingen.nl/kst-33996-29.pdf

EDRi: EC’s leak describes blocking as “challenging”, “costly” and ineffective (26.01.2011)
https://edri.org/edrigramnumber9-2blocking-commission-gambling/

(Contribution by Rejo Zenger, EDRi member Bits of Freedom, Netherlands)

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