EU and China adopt harmonised approach to censorship

By EDRi · May 18, 2011

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Deutsch: [EU und China harmonisieren ihre Zensurma├čnahmen |]

The European Union and China appear to have agreed to share their preferred
approaches to censorship, producing a model that is a perfect mix between
current EU and Chinese policies.

On 20 April 2011, at an event in the European Parliament entitled “Creative
Industries: Innovation for Growth”, the French European Commissioner for the
Internal Market, Michel Barnier, announced plans to make focus on Internet
providers to enforce intellectual property. He explained that he did not
want to “criminalise” consumers and therefore would put the pressure on
online intermediaries (who will then police and punish the consumers

Eight days later, on 28 April, the Beijing Copyright Bureau decided to
follow exactly the same model. In its “Guiding Framework for the Protection
of Copyright for Network Dissemination,” it proposes a range of obligations
on Internet intermediaries such as:

-180-day data retention for the name and IP address of users, if
the intermediary provides file-sharing or hosting services. This is
fractionally more liberal than the most liberal approach permitted by the
European Commission, which requires data retention for a minimum of six

– deterring and restraining (sic) those who upload unlicensed
material, including terminating the offending users’ service (as appears in
the preparatory works of the ACTA agreement, supported by the EU) and also
reporting these infringing acts to copyright law enforcement authorities;

– employing “effective technical measures to prevent users
uploading or linking to copyrighted works” (as supported by the EU in its
input to the European Court of Justice in the Scarlet/Sabam case (C-70/10).

While the developments in relation to copyright show China’s willingness to
learn from the EU’s planned repressive measures, the traffic is not entirely
one-way, as shown by the recent revelations on the Hungarian Presidency’s
“virtual Schengen” proposal.

In 2008, the French EU Presidency developed plans for a “Cybercrime
Platform” to be run by Europol, as a means of collecting reports of
illicit/unwanted content from across Europe, acting as an “information hub”
with the reasonably obvious intention of a harmonised approach to blocking
web content.

This approach was further developed in the Internal Security Strategy from
2010, which said ominously that “while the very structure of the internet
knows no boundaries, jurisdiction for prosecuting cybercrime still stops at
national borders. Member States need to pool their efforts at EU level. The
High Tech Crime Centre at Europol already plays an important coordinating
role for law enforcement, but further action is needed.”

The European Commission immediately took the initiative and offered funding
for projects that supported “the blocking of access to child pornography or
blocking the access to illegal Internet content through public-private
cooperation” – expanding blocking both to content of any kind and to
extra-judicial blocking, in contravention of the European Convention on
Human Rights and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. As a result, European
police forces were given a grant of 324 059 Euro to lobby for blocking in
the EU.

All of these developments have now led to the proposal for a “Great Firewall
of Europe”, as demonstrated by an EU Council presentation published this
week by EDRi. This would harmonise the EU’s approach to content that it
wished to stop at the EU’s borders, following the same logic as the “Great
Firewall of China” which censors unwanted content from outside China’s
jurisdiction. Ironically, both the European Commission and Council of
Ministers are now claiming that such a blocking plan was never the intention
and are distancing themselves from the proposal – even to the point of
rewriting the minutes of the meeting where the proposal was discussed.

In summary, therefore, the EU/China internal policy on censorship will be
based on the European model of censorship by proxy, whereby Internet
intermediaries undertake the work. For unwanted traffic from outside the EU,
the Chinese model of a “virtual border” is being pushed forward, despite
recent protestations of innocence from the EU institutions.

Hungarian presidency rewriting of history of meeting

Virtual Schengen documents released by EU Council (12.05.2011)

Virtual Schengen documents released by EU Council

Commission input to ECJ on Scarlet/Sabam (only in French, 13.01.2011)

ACTA Draft: No Internet for Copyright Scofflaws (24.03.2010)

EU Internal Security Strategy

French Presidency work programme

EU Communication: Internal Security Strategy (22.11.2010)

Chinese copyright office: Guiding Framework on the Protection of Copyright
for Network Dissemination (28.04.2011)

EU information management instruments (20.07.2010)

Council and Commission distance themselves from blocking plans (only in
German, 16.05.2011),1518,762783,00.html

Commission funding – ISEC 2010 action grants

(Contribution by Joe McNamee – EDRi)