Internet FoE: How should Europe battle online censorship?

By EDRi · June 1, 2011

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Deutsch: [Redefreiheit: Wie die EU Onlinezensur bekämpfen soll |]

On 23 May 2011, there was an event in the International Press Centre in
Brussels, hosted by ECIPE. Participants in the event were Erika Mann
(Executive Vice President, CCIA; Board Member, ICANN), William Echikson
(Head of Free Expression, EMEA, Google), Marietje Schaake (Member of the
European Parliament, the Netherlands), Hosuk Lee-Makiyama (Director, ECIPE),
Uri Rosenthal (Dutch Minister for Foreign Affairs) and Carl Bildt (Swedish
Minister for Foreign Affairs).

Erika Mann said that the politics and governments were dividing the
Internet. With regard to the EU, she said that preaching of freedom across
the world would not have the desired effect if the EU did not implement this
freedom in its own legal system.

William Echikson noted that Google’s business depended on the free flow of
information. As regards current challenges, he referred to the Italian
YouTube case, in which three Google employees were convicted of privacy
violations because students at a school in Turin uploaded a video to YouTube
that showed the bullying of an autistic child. He said that, in this
particular case, convicting Google employees was the same as making a
postman for carrying the contents of the post.

Marietje Schaake MEP (ALDE Group, the Netherlands) said that we needed a
global internet strategy. She also said that there were some remarks from
China that the EU could not ask other countries to respect the freedom of
the Internet if the EU did not guarantee such freedom to its own citizens.

Ms Schaake described some of the challenges related to the Internet. They
were: (1) Net neutrality, (2) Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights,
(3) ACTA, (4) Cybersecurity. The Dutch MEP also said that the potential
solutions to the last three of these challenges should be investigated as to
whether they are a “medicine” to the problem or a “disease” in their own
right. Finally, Ms Schaake concluded that EU e-policy should mainstream the
Internet freedom and ensure that there was a democratic oversight and

Uri Rosenthal pointed out that the freedom of expression is the core of
every free nation. Moreover, freedom of expression opened the door to many
other human rights. On the Internet, freedom of expression had to be
defended. In order to do that, the public and private sector should act
together. This is because the Internet freedom was a multi-stakeholder
issue. Mr Rosenthal said that the Netherlands proposed EU-level restrictions
on exporting equipment used for limiting the freedom of the Internet and
supports for circumvention technologies. The Dutch Minister for Foreign
Affairs also expressed his support to cyber dissidents around the world.

Carl Bildt said that the present progress in information technology was only
the beginning of the Internet. He added that, since the Internet is so
valuable for development that the EU should support its fast development.

He stated that freedom and security were also important. In order to ensure
these goals, there was a need of a global strategy. This is because a global
impact could be achieved only by a global action. The Swedish Minister for
Foreign Affairs also noted that Sweden provided financial support to NGOs
located all around the world to fight against filtering and blocking. He
argued that setting people free allowed development. With regard to the
recent US Strategy for cyberspace, he said that he supported it. However,
the EU should also support it. In an amusing swipe at President Sarcozy, in
response to a reference to the “civilised Internet”, he replied “Civilised
Internet? Perhaps we should first launch a civilised telephone system where
people only say nice things.”

Carl Bildt remarks on Digital Authoritarianism at The European Centre for
International Political Economy (ECIPE) Brussels (23.05.2011)


(Contribution by Daniel Dimov – EDRi intern)