Romania: draft legislation proposing website blocking

By EDRi · March 23, 2011

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Deutsch: [Rumänien: Gesetzesentwurf über Netzsperren |]

Some ministries in the Romanian government seem to ignore or not even
consider the arguments against Internet blocking, as they are proposing new
legislation meant to allow enforcement authorities to impose blocking
obligations on Internet service providers.

One draft law initiated by the Government and currently debated within the
Parliament is aimed at reviewing the existing legislation on pornography.
While the law in force stipulates that the persons creating pornographic
websites may allow access to these websites only after users pay “a tax per
minute of usage” (while in reality there is no such a tax foreseen by
fiscal authorities), the draft law introduces new obligations: a warning
regarding the content must be placed on the website’s home page or
a verification of the age of the potential users.

The draft law gives the competent authority (the Ministry of Communications
and Information Society) the mandate to control the enforcement of the
obligations imposed by law, and, in case of non-compliance, to require
service providers to block access to the websites or content for a
period of up to 30 days. Providers would have to implement the blocking
measure within two days following the request of the authority. The Ministry
that initiated the project did not reply to any comments on the draft law
and refused to take into consideration the only implementation of the law in
force, when in December 2008, ISPs were asked to block 40 allegedly illegal
websites. The blocking order was sent to only 5-6 ISPs out of the almost
1000 on the market, where the authority implementing the law by claiming
that they had already covered 90% of the
Internet access market.

Besides the fact that the idea of a tax per minute of usage is practically
irrelevant for any Internet service, the draft law contains many other
flaws. Firstly, it is not clear to what type of service providers the
blocking obligation would apply to, since there are many similar terms used
in the law: “service providers as defined by the Romanian law on electronic
commerce” (i.e. information society service providers), “providers of
services for Internet”, “service provider”. Secondly, although the competent
authority is able to request providers to block access to websites or to
content, sanctions would be imposed only if they do not comply with the
request to block access to websites. Thirdly, there is a provision according
to which service providers would be held responsible if they offer links to
pornographic websites. This provision is not only confusing, since it does
not specify the type of service providers it refers to, but also redundant
since a similar provision already exists in the E-commerce law.

The “web blocking solution” is also included in another draft law, a
Governmental decision regarding the organisation and operation of gambling
websites. According to this draft decision, the competent bodies would be
able to require Internet providers to block websites identified as
being used to provide access to unlicensed gambling sites or to market
activities regarding gambling sites or related activities and services that
are not authorized under Romanian law. However the law does not provide any
obligation (or sanction) for the ISPs to comply with that decision. This
draft decision, which was never discussed with the ISPs, is only a secondary
legislation that should only implement a law (OUG 77/2009), which, again,
does not foresee blocking as a possible measure or any obligations for ISPs.

What the two draft legal acts have in common is a misunderstanding while
the Internet industry and human rights organisations were never consulted on
the matter- that website blocking is either the only, or the most
efficient solution for dealing with problems related to the illegal
activities undertaken via websites.

The measure to block websites is even more ludicrous when Romania has no
legal or practical system in place for blocking illegal content (i.e. child
pornography) and the Ministry of Justice representatives rejected this
measure in the European Council. However the measure could be adopted for
legal, but harmful content (such as pornography).

Websites blocking measures to be adopted in Romania (only in

EDRi-gram: Romanian Authority asks ISPs to block 40 pornographic websites

Stop(ped) web blocking (14.02.2011)

(Contribution by Sorina Teleanu – EDRi-member ApTI – Romania)