ENDitorial: Internet blocking – EP opts for leadership over populism

By EDRi · February 23, 2011

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Deutsch: [ENDitorial: Internetsperren – EP für Leadership statt Populismus |]

On 14 February 2011, the Civil Liberties Committee of the European
Parliament (EP) voted on the European Commission’s proposal on web blocking.

The European Commission had proposed mandatory EU-wide blocking and limited
safeguards. The approach is populist, simplistic and, by giving Member
States the option to take cosmetic measures to hide their inaction,
profoundly dangerous and counterproductive.

The Committee addressed the issue in numerous debates, from September 2009
until now and held a two-day hearing on the subject to get views from
international institutions, police and law enforcement bodies, child rights
organisations and EDRi, as the sole digital rights voice in the event. As a
result of this extensive analysis, Parliamentarians increasing came to the
conclusion that the issue was more complex and sensitive than it first

As a result, under the leadership of rapporteur Roberta Angelilli (EPP,
Italy), the Parliament voted for a text which moved the focus away from
technically inefficient measures and towards concrete tools to fight crimes
against children. Despite bizarre and desperate claims from some quarters
that this approach was somehow paedophile-friendly, the Committee
courageously rejected simplistic lobbying and took a leadership role –
pushing for effective policy across the European Union.

The text also harmonises the approach to existing European Union and
European Convention on Human Rights obligations with regard to restrictions
on communication. This will enable more coherent, predictable and
proportionate approaches in the future on a European level.

The Parliament text of Article 21 and Recital 13 prioritises concrete
measures aimed at addressing the existence of the illegal content on
websites, investigating the actual crimes and the criminals committing them,
as well as rescuing the victims.

It does this specifically by placing the emphasis on:
– removal at source: This measure undermines the same
existence of illegal material, avoiding “all” risks of re-victimisation,
while allowing Internet providers to keep record of content to facilitate
police’s criminal investigation and victim identification;

– international cooperation: It is particularly important
to remove the systemic problems in communication and cooperation with third
countries’ authorities that lead to illegal content in websites hosted
abroad not being dealt with expeditiously (this cooperation could include,
for example, the setting up of single points of contact for competent

– European annual reporting on removal activities: This
will help identify individual success and failures of Member States at a
national and international level, to disseminate best practices and ensure
maximum efforts to prosecute criminals and identify victims.

The Parliament’s text will serve to clarify and harmonise the EU’s approach
to existing legal obligations on restrictions to communications. In

– The least restrictive alternative is prioritised, namely, the deletion of
websites. Only when this is impossible can a more restrictive method (such
as blocking) be considered.

– In line with the European Convention on Human Rights,
alternative measures for removal at source (such as blocking) must be
“necessary” (ie, the measure must be effective and no other measure can be
reasonably available taking into account technical and economic feasibility)

– Respecting existing case law of the European Court of
Human Rights, restrictions must be imposed in a predictable (according to
law), transparent (ie, the measure should be based on relevant factors or
sufficient evidence) and proportionate (ie, the negative effects of a
measure should be counter-balanced by its benefits in terms of a legitimate
public policy objective) manner.

Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on
combating the sexual abuse, sexual exploitation of children and child
pornography, repealing Framework Decision 2004/68/JHA

“Impact assessment”: Accompanying document to the Proposal for a Council
Framework Decision on combating the sexual abuse, sexual exploitation of
children and child pornography, repealing Framework Decision 2004/68/JHA –
Impact assessment {COM(2009)135} {SEC(2009)356)

Commission official explains the Commission’s research

EDRi’s blocking booklet

EDRi-gram: Web blocking discussions in European Parliament reach critical stage (12.01.2011)

(contribution by Joe McNamee – EDRi)