Europarl hearing on Safer Internet Plus programme
On 11 October, the Civil Liberties Committee of the European parliament (LIBE) organised a hearing on the Safer Internet Plus programme, covering 50 million euro for the years 2005-2008. Learning from past discussions in the European Parliament on the effectivity of this funding, the Commission wrote a pre-evaluation of the action plan. Rapporteur Edith Mastenbroek (Dutch Labour party) wholeheartedly agreed with the commission in putting the main focus on end-user empowerment, as opposed to central filtering. She suggested one major alteration in the suggested spending; in stead of spending 16 to 23% on the development of filter software and software for hotlines, she suggested to move that budget to the action line of raising public awareness (already taking 43 to 50% of the funding). The Commission should only fund research into the performance and the transparency of filter software.
On the first action line, the establishment of hotlines where citizens can report illegal and/or harmful content, Mastenbroek applauded the concern the Commission showed for civil liberties. In the pre-evaluation the Commission writes: “Other activists are concerned at the implications for civil liberties of measures taken to restrict circulation of content or access to content, particularly where measures taken ostensibly to restrict access by children to potentially harmful content also restrict access by adults to content which is legal for them.” However, she insisted that this concern should be translated in specific recommendations regarding transparency of hotlines and notice and take-down procedures with ISPs.
Regarding the third action line, promoting of self-regulatory Codes of Conduct, to take 5 to 9% of the budget, Mastenbroek insisted on the involvement of user representatives and civil rights groups in creating Codes of Conduct.
Four experts were invited to give their vision on internet filtering: Yaman Akdeniz from Cyber-rights; Stephane Marcovitch, council member of EuroISPA; Diane Sutton from Save the Children and on behalf of EDRI Sjoera Nas (editor of EDRI-gram), each given 7 minutes to present their view on filtering. While Akdeniz explained the Committee about the important differences between harmful and illegal content, EURO-ISPA claimed they were working on a new Code of Conduct. The representative of Save the Children stated too little was done against child pornography, and the Commission should dedicate more funds to the tracking and tracing of abused children. Finally, EDRI talked about the dangers of internet filter software for both privacy and freedom of speech, calling on the Commission to create an exception on the circumvention ban for censorware, allowing researchers to legitimately investigate the technology, and publish blacklists and keywords.
The experts were interrupted for a secret vote on the position of Mr. Buttiglione, that lasted for 2 and a half hours. After the vote, the hearing lasted only very briefly, with only a few remarks and questions from the MEPs.
Safer Internet Plus programme 2005-2008
Commission ex-ante evaluation