Hearing on Internet Blocking in the European Parliament

By EDRi · October 6, 2010

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Deutsch: [Hearing zu Netzsperren im Europäischen Parlament |]

The European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee held a hearing on the
Child Exploitation Directive on 28 and 29 September, chaired by the
Parliament’s Rapporteur, Roberta Angelilli (EPP, Italy).

The event was opened by the MEP responsible for the dossier, Ms Angelilli
herself and the Rapporteurs from the two Committees providing an “Opinion”
on the dossier – Culture (Petra Kammerevert, S+D, Germany) and Gender
Equality (Marina Yannakoudakis, ECR, UK). Ms Kammerevert reflected on the
detail of the proposal, on the need to ensure that the measure is well
targeted and that we use proper evidence to produce effective strategy. On
this basis, Ms Kammerevert argued strongly against the concept of web
blocking as an effective strategy. Ms Yannakoudakis argued that free speech
should not be a barrier when trying to protect children and blocking might
be useful and therefore should be deployed.

In the second session of the event, EU institutions and bodies gave their
views on the dossier. The interventions from the Fundamental Rights Agency
and the Deputy European Data Protection Supervisor were interesting insofar
as both highlighted the costs of blocking in terms of fundamental rights and
privacy but neither devoted a moment to question the supposed benefits. This
was even stranger when we consider that the Fundamental Rights Agency
pointed out the need to make a proper impact assessment. Ms Asenius, head of
Cabinet of Commissioner Malmström repeated the frequently myth that there
were huge profits to be made in commercial exploitation of child abuse
images. However, in the discussion period afterwards, German Green MEP Jan
Albrecht pointed out that the Commission-funded “Financial Coalition against
Child Pornography” published an up to date report in September which shows
that this is simply not the case. Ms Asenius chose not to respond. A further
valuable but answerless question was put by Vilija Blinkeviciute (S+D,
Lithuania), who asked how the Parliament was supposed to legislate without
the data needed to make an informed decision.

The session with police organisations took place at the same time as the
Civil Liberties Committee organised a vote elsewhere in the Parliament.
As a result, there were no parliamentarians at all present for most of the
speeches. Bjorn-Erik Ludvigsen accused opponents of blocking of being in
favour of child abuse while Bjorn Sellström made an odd argument that
blocking would only be effective if everyone did it. From a law enforcement
perspective, it would appear to make more sense to aim motivating all
countries to prosecute crimes in their own country rather than creating
systems to hide infringements abroad.

In the final session devoted to NGOs, the UK hotline (the Internet Watch
Foundation) described the statistics produced by that organisation,
including the huge and rapid growth in the hosting of abuse material on free
hosting services (without mentioning that it is easier to have such sites
deleted than to block them), the growth in the abuse of free image hosting
sites (without mentioning that it is easier to have such images deleted than
to block them) and the growth in the proportion of websites that move very
quickly (without mentioning that these move too quickly to be blocked).

EDRi’s presentation highlighted the technical inadequacies of blocking, the
risks associated with blocking and the poor preparatory work of the European
Commission. John Carr from the Commission-funded group eNACSO explained that
big companies had implemented blocking, so it couldn’t be inadequate. He
added that guns could be used for good and bad purposes, so the fact that
blocking could be used for good and bad purposes did not mean that blocking
was inherently bad.

During the final discussion, Christian Bahls from MOgIS (the association of
abuse victims against blocking) argued that blocking risked damaging the
integrity of the Internet, that the issue with re-victimisation was not the
possible existence of images on the Internet but the very existence of the
images and also that it was necessary to do properly research the problem
and then produce solutions rather than the other way around.

EDRi’s blocking booklet in English, German, Czech and Romanian

Text of EDRi presentation to the hearing (29.09.2010)

Video of EDRi presentation at the hearing (29.09.2010)–FqccGE

Commission official explains (again) the Commission’s research

European Financial Coalition against commercial sexual exploitation of
children online – Report (2010)

MOgIS YouTube channel

EDRi-gram: ENDitorial: Internet blocking in ten weeks and counting

(Contribution by Joe McNamee – EDRi)