freedom of expression

Freedom of expression is one of the key benefits of the digial era. The global information society permits interaction on a scale that was previously unheard of – promoting intercultural exchange and democracy. Consequently, the protection of this freedom is central to much of EDRi’s work.

23 Mar 2017

EDRi @RightsCon 2017 – You cannot miss us!

By EDRi

EDRi member Access Now is bringing the sixth edition of RightsCon, the world’s leading digital rights event, to Brussels. We are happy to announce that EDRi’s presence at the conference will be particularly strong this year – our members will be organising a record number of sessions, and our team will participate in an impressive selection of talks and panels.

From 29 to 31 March, the event will bring together more than 1200 attendees – human rights advocates, digital rights enthusiasts, organisations, tech companies, universities, startups, and decision-makers. We are proud to be part of this outstanding event!

You can check the latest draft schedule here and the draft programme session list here. Below, you can find the list of the sessions in which our team is speaking, and those organised by our Brussels office and EDRi members. (If you are an EDRi member or observer and you don’t see your session listed, please let us know – we’ll be happy to add it there!)

In addition to our talks and panels, we have many meetings scheduled during the conference. We will be busy for sure, but if you see us around, don’t hesitate to come and say hello, or grab some of our publications and stickers at our community booth!


DAY 1 – Wednesday, 29 March

10:30 – 11:45

  • Lightning talks: Algorithms and Fake News (Innovation)
    • The Future is False Positive (Bits of Freedom)
    • Inside Facebook Algorithmic Factory (SHARE Foundation)
    • The Deanonymization Arms Race – Machine Learning & Metadata (Data & Society Research Institute & EDRi)

14:30-15:45

  • The Outer Boundaries of Hacking Crypto (Access Now – Klimt)
  • Civil Society in the Global Digital Policy Agenda: Update on the G20 Process and Setting the Way Forward 2017-2018 (CSISAC, Civil Society Council at the OECD – Inspiration)
  • Lightning Talks, Global Opportunities and Risks, pt. 1 (Palace Ballroom I)
    • Hacking & Hacking Lawsuits – Kazakhstan’s Global Crackdown on Press Freedom (Electronic Frontier Foundation, EFF)

16.00 – 17.00

  • Linking trade agreements with adequacy decision: What risk for data protection? (Access Now – Creativity & Exploration)

17.15 – 18.15

  • Monetising your privacy: Concerns in the post-truth era of online publishing (EDRi – Inspiration)
  • Why give up freedom to fight terrorism? (EDRi – Evasion)
  • EU export controls – policy posturing or real-world impact? (Access Now – Innovation)
  • Enabling the Free Flow of Data Globally: What Rules for Data Transfers? (Access Now – Klimt)

DAY 2 – Thursday, 30 March

9:00 – 10:15

  • Community ISPs: Building Alternative Networks (Article 19 – Demo Room Vision)

12:00-13:15

  • Rough Road Ahead: What the US and EU Elections Mean For Human Rights Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF – Palace Ballroom I)
  • Beyond Post-Truth: Algorithms vs. Alt_Social (Alternative Informatics, Alt_Bil – Stoclet)
  • Risky Online Dating and the LGBTQ Community: A Conversation (Article 19 – Evasion)

14:30-15:45

  • Contextualizing Digital Security Threats and Best Practices (Article 19 – Demo Room Clarity)

16:00-17:00

  • Net Neutrality Planet: What’s Next in the Global Fight For an Open Internet (epicenter.works – Palace Ballroom I)
  • Taking Forward the Multistakeholder Debate (UNESCO – Klimt)
  • Corporate sponsorship of NGOs and Conferences: Ethics and Independence (Privacy Surgeon – Infinity)

DAY 3 – Friday, 31 March

9:00 – 10:15

  • Cross Border Access to Evidence / Encryption (EDRi – Serenity)
  • Reforming the e-Privacy Regulation: Will We Bring Privacy and Security Into the 21st Century? (Access Now – Klimt)
  • Managing Concerns Around Digital Identity (Access Now – Innovation)
  • Priva-TiSA-tion of human rights? (EDRi – Palace Ballroom I)
  • Privacy for Everyone: Using Libraries to Promote Digital Privacy (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions – Inspiration)

10.30-11.45

  • OTT Services: Leveling the Field for Digital Rights (Access Now – Creativity & Exploration)
  • The Four Finger Rule: The Impact of Sexuality Censorship on Society (EFF – Mosaic)
  • Surveying Surveillance in the EU (Access Now – Infinity)

12:00-13:15

  • The Internet of Things and Ubiquitous Surveillance (Access Now- Klimt)
  • Trade Agreements and Electronic Commerce: The Users’ Perspective (EFF – Creativity & Exploration)
  • Busting Digital Rights Myths (Asociatia pentru Tehnologie si Internet, ApTI – Inspiration)

14:30-15:45

  • ¿Quién Defiende Tus Datos? 2016: Holding Telecoms Accountable and Encouraging Best Practices Through Rating Reports (EFF – Palace Ballroom I)
  • Who Controls Online Media? (Panoptykon Foundation & EDRi – Creativity & Exploration)

16:00-17:00

  • Government Hacking: Finding the One Exploit to Rule Them All (Bits of Freedom – Palace Ballroom I)
  • The Erosion of Democracy: Impacts on Society and Civil Society (Access Now – Klimt)
  • ToS as Law: When Governments Rely On Terms of Service, What Are Your Options? (CDT – Evasion)
  • Every Plane You Take, I’ll Be Watching You… Wait, You’re On A Train? (Access Now – Creativity & Exploration)

17:15-18:15

  • Secure UX: How Design Methodologies Build Safer Online Communities (Access Now & Meedan – Mosaic)
  • Culture to the People! Adapting Copyright to the XXI Century Private meeting (by invitation only) (EDRi – Serenity)

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22 Mar 2017

Hakuna Metadata – Exploring the browsing history

By Guest author

Metadata is data about data. In an e-mail, the data is the content of the e-mail and metadata is the information about the e-mail. So, it covers information like who is it from or who sent it, the date and time, the subject, network information etc. When we are browsing the internet, data is represented by the content of the websites that we visit, but the metadata are the website addresses (so-called “URLs”), the time of visit and the number of visits, network information, and so on.

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Data is often considered to be sensitive, and it is possible to protect it using encryption technologies. However, metadata is generally not treated as sensitive, and is also very difficult to encrypt. For example, if we encrypt the sender information on an email, your email client would not know where to send it.

Metadata was not invented to help privacy invaders. It was intended to speed up the process of classification and indexing of any kind of bulk data, without looking at the data itself. By definition, metadata enforces data protection by letting someone process the data, without even looking at the content inside – sort of like an envelope in traditional postal services. However, metadata is also the fastest way to profile internet users – by analysing the number and nature of communications between different people, with particular websites, location, keywords. Although profiling based on metadata can be used for a number of purposes, the exploitation of its power for advertising and surveillance is its most common and controversial use.

Browsers store the browsing history to provide a more user-friendly browsing experience. By default, browsers store the history of all the previously visited websites, cached copy of the websites, form filling history, cookie information, and bookmarks. Depending on the operating system and the browser, this information will be stored in a specific location on the hard disk of your computer in a lightweight database. Browser history has its own advantage in terms of usability, such as automatic completion of previously visited URLs, and locally cached copies of the previously visited websites to boost up the browsing speed.

Who can access our metadata from browsing? Our browsing history is accessible to our browsers, which is why it is highly recommended to use open-source trustworthy browsers such as Mozilla Firefox, which protects and respects your privacy. If you are using other browsers from the companies that are themselves data brokers and advertisers, you end up giving away your browsing history to get tracked. Even when we can trust our browsers, there are other actors with access to our browsing history. Full access to our browsing history can be gained through a Wifi Hotspot, especially when using public hotspots, as well as because of a malware in the computer. Almost full access to your browsing history is available to Internet Service Providers (ISPs), even when the traffic is encrypted. Partial access is available to Domain Name Service (DNS) Providers, to different companies for tracking, advertising and profiling through cookies, browser fingerprinting, etc., and to websites that you visit.

In spite of the clear privacy implications, there is no clarity under the law about whether browsing history is to be protected as content or non-content metadata.

Hakuna Metadata, a project to analyse metadata by EDRi’s Ford-Mozilla Open Web Fellow Sid Rao shows how metadata can reveal a surprising scale of our daily interactions online. It is possible to learn about a person’s working hours, sleep time, work-related travel and holiday schedules, interests and other keywords related information, who their friends are and much more just by using their browsing metadata. You can read more about the project and the results of the analysis here and download the open source browsing history visualisation tool here.

Hakuna Metadata – Exploring the browsing history (28.03.2017)
http://www.privacypies.org/blog/metadata/2017/02/28/hakuna-metadata-1.html

Hakuna Metadata – Browsing history visualization for Linux + Firefox combo
https://github.com/sidtechnical/hakuna-metadata-1

Metadata Investigation: Inside Hacking Team (29.10.2015)
https://labs.rs/en/metadata/

(Contribution by Siddharth Rao, Ford-Mozilla Open Web Fellow, EDRi)

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22 Mar 2017

EU moves one step closer to the world’s worst internet filtering law

By Joe McNamee

In September 2016, the European Commission proposed legislation that would require the constant monitoring and filtering of virtually everything that is uploaded to the internet in Europe.

Under the extreme rules proposed by the Commission in the Copyright Directive, uploads to the internet would need to be scanned to assess if any photo, video or text that is being uploaded can be “identified” based on information provided by copyright holders. This would block, for example, memes that include copyrighted images or videos, parody, quotation and other perfectly harmless activities.

In order to encourage internet companies to monitor and delete information as thoroughly as possible, it is also proposed that their legal liability for uploads would be increased.

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Remarkably, the measures proposed for copyright are far in excess of what the EU has proposed as measures against terrorism in regard to regulating online content. Under the new Terrorism Directive, the EU did not consider it necessary or proportionate to propose mandatory upload filtering, new monitoring obligations or an increase in liability for internet companies. All three of these measures have been proposed to fight the apparently more serious threat of internet memes being uploaded without copyright holders’ consent.

In the last week of March, the deadline for amendments in the leading European Parliament committees, Legal Affairs (JURI) and Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO), will pass. Soon afterwards, the amendments will be tabled, and we will be able to see which Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have proposed to delete or minimise the damage from Commission’s extreme proposals.

So far, there is some good news. The parliamentarian in charge of the file in the JURI Committee, Therese Comodini Cachia partly narrowed the scope of the proposals. Also, the MEP in charge of the file in the IMCO Committee, Catherine Stihler removed the worst elements. However, there is still huge support for the proposal in the Parliament, so much more work is needed to improve it.

If you want to find out how you can help, please visit https://savethememe.net and see the campaign video against the “censorship machine” here.

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EDRi: Civil society urges EU institutions to stop the “censorship machine” in the copyright proposal (13.03.2017)
https://edri.org/civil-society-urges-eu-institutions-to-stop-the-censorship-machine-in-the-copyright-proposal/

EDRi: Copyright reform: Document pool
https://edri.org/copyright-reform-document-pool/

EDRi: Copyright Directive: Lead MEP partly deletes the “censorship machine” (09.03.2017)
https://edri.org/copyright-directive-lead-mep-partly-deletes-censorship-machine/

EDRi: A positive step forward against the “censorship machine” in the Copyright Directive
https://edri.org/positive-step-forward-censorship-machine-copyright-directive/

EDRi: Recklessly unclear Terrorism Directive creates significant risks for citizens’ security (16.02.2017)
https://edri.org/recklessly-unclear-terrorism-directive-creates-significant-risks-citizens-security/

(Contribution by Joe McNamee, EDRi)

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22 Mar 2017

Human rights court: Website not liable for anonymous comment

By EDRi

On 9 March 2017, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) published its unanimous ruling in the case of Pihl v. Sweden. It declared that a non-profit association was not liable for an anonymous defamatory comment posted on its blog.

The plaintiff Rolf Anders Daniel Pihl had made a civil claim against the small non-profit association which ran the blog. Pihl had been the subject of a defamatory third-party comment that was published anonymously on the blog. He claimed that the association running the blog should be held liable for the comment. The claim was rejected by the Swedish courts. Pihl complained to ECHR, which held that the complaint was without merit.

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In its decision, the ECHR stated that by refusing to hold the association liable for the comment, the Swedish authorities had struck a fair balance between an individual’s right to respect of private life and the freedom of expression enjoyed by the association that ran the blog. The comment had been taken down quickly after the plaintiff made his complaint and, even if offensive, it had not amounted to hate speech or an incitement to violence. Also the fact that it was posted on a website with a relatively small readership, run by a small non-profit association, was used by the Court in its reasoning for rejecting the claim.

The Swedish courts had explicitly assessed the case on the basis of ECHR case law and the controversial Delfi case, in which an internet news portal was liable for the offensive comments that were posted underneath an online article.

There were three potential lines of redress available for the plaintiff. The first would be against the poster of the comment who had a French IP address, and the plaintiff apparently did not pursue this. The second option was the claim against the website, which was the object of this case, with the plaintiff complaining of the direct damage caused by the post being available for six days. Thereafter, the third line of redress would be via search engines that had, in the plaintiff’s view, exacerbated the damage.

In paragraph 33 of the ruling, ECHR notes that, “as concerns the alleged possibility of still being able to find the comment via search engines, the applicant is entitled to request that the search engines remove any such traces of the comment”. The court is referring to the Costeja ruling (so called “right to be forgotten”), which would have given the plaintiff the right to have the content de-linked from searches using his name.

In the light of ongoing discussions on intermediary liability, the ruling on the non-liability of the website in this case is encouraging.

Court backs Sweden over blog’s Nazi jibe (10.03.2017)
http://www.humanrightseurope.org/2017/03/court-backs-sweden-over-blogs-nazi-jibe/

The European Court of Human Rights: Pihl v. Sweden
http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng/#{%22itemid%22:[%22001-172145%22]}

ECtHR: Internet News Portal Liable For The Offensive Online Comments
https://edri.org/ecthr-internet-news-portal-liable-for-the-offensive-online-comments/

Google’s forgetful approach to the “right to be forgotten”
https://edri.org/googles-forgetful-approach-right-forgotten/

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22 Mar 2017

Switzerland: Blocking of gambling sites – gambling with human rights

By EDRi

On 1 March 2017, the Swiss National Council debated the proposal to regulate online gambling, and approved it. The consequences of the law go beyond gambling regulations, since they amount to censorship, blocking of content, and restricting the free and open internet.

The law limits online and offline gambling to a fixed number of Swiss-based operators, who hold a valid licence from the Swiss authorities. Once the law is be applied, public access to foreign online gambling websites, such as online casinos and poker sites, will be blocked. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will be obliged to block the access based on IP addresses or domain names. Further network barriers are included in proposed revisions of the copyright and the telecommunications laws.

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Much of the debate on the law proposal concerned protecting the revenues of licensed Swiss casinos and lotteries, while technical facts were not given the attention they would have deserved.

Civil society has criticised the law for threatening the open internet and freedom of expression. Local NGOs Internet Society Switzerland Chapter (ISOC-CH) and Digitale Gesellschaft Switzerland explain in their factsheet the shortcomings of the law, and list the most important arguments why network blocking is detrimental for the open internet. They point out that many politicians believe that “warning pages” inserted by the local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are the most effective part of the blocking measures. However, in reality, in a large majority of the cases, such “warning pages” are not shown to the internet users, as the “warning pages” do not work with the widely used https encryption protocol. The user only sees a confusing error message locally generated by the browser. In addition to the risk of overblocking of legal content and the general error-proneness, technology experts also challenge the IP address or domain name-based filtering because it erodes efforts to better secure the network.

Next, the law will pass the final vote in the Parliament, which is seen as a formality. After that, ISOC-CH plans, together with several other NGOs, to run a campaign to collect the 50 000 signatures required to have the law voted in a referendum.

The Swiss legislation is not the first of the sort to use net blocking against gambling. Belgium obliged the ISPs to block non-licensed providers in 2012 and went even further with criminalisation and fining the players. On 1 January 2017 gambling legislation became effective in the Czech Republic and was recently confirmed by the Czech Constitutional court, despite the constitutional complaint by 21 senators who argued that the net filtering constituted censorship, interfered with freedom of expression and information rights. The complainants still have to decide if they want to bring the case to the European Court of Justice. The complex system of net blocking in the UK goes beyond gambling and also covers, to some extent, dating, nudity, hate and hacking. It has proven to be especially prone to the effect of overblocking.

Generally, it is felt that blocking of gambling sites is, in practice, useless, but is implemented due to lobbying by domestic gambling companies. Small-scale gamblers prefer to stick to well-known national services, so blocking them from visiting sites that they never visit is obviously useless. Large-scale gamblers go wherever the percentage return is highest and will invest a small amount of money in circumventing the blocking technology, rather than losing a large amount of money by using uncompetitive, low-payout domestic services.

Bad day for the open Internet in Switzerland (06.03.2017)
https://www.isoc.ch/archives/2653

Switzerland next in line to gamble with net blocking (03.03.2017)
https://www.ip-watch.org/2017/03/03/switzerland-next-line-gamble-net-blocking/

Network blocking does not work and makes the internet insecure (only in German, 26.02.2017)
https://www.digitale-gesellschaft.ch/2017/02/26/netzsperren-funktionieren-nicht-und-machen-das-internet-unsicher/

Open Rights Group: Blocked! The personal cost of filters
https://www.blocked.org.uk/personal-stories

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22 Mar 2017

Multilateral Investment Court System does not deliver equal justice

By Guest author

On 15 March 2017, the public consultation on “options for a multilateral reform of investment dispute resolution” launched by the European Commission (EC) was concluded. EDRi responded to the consultation, in line with the response to the previous Investment-to-State-Dispute-Settlement (ISDS) consultation and our work on trade and fundamental rights. Our view is that the Multilateral Investment Court System (MICS) is not a suitable option to replace the flawed ISDS system. Instead, insofar as any state has an inadequate legal system, it is this problem which should be addressed.

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In addition to the contents of the proposal, the public consultation itself can be criticised. The way in which it was formulated did not allow for unbiased responses, and thus a full response, addressing the entire range of problems related to the reform proposed is precluded. Firstly, the questionnaire does not even contain the most important question: is an ISDS or MICS necessary at all? Secondly, based on an Inception Impact Assessment (IIA) that denies the potential existence of social impacts of the adjustment to the current system, the scope of the consultation has been narrowed down, which leaves very little space for discussion. For example, the Commission fails to address any potential impact to fundamental rights online, such as the rights to privacy and data protection. A Multilateral Investment Court would assess whether democratic decisions are arbitrary from the point of view of the protection of foreign investments, creating major risks for democracies and civil rights.

The Commission’s proposal itself, although not perfect, does take some steps in the right direction. As compared with the previously suggested ISDS system, it looks at improving consistency, efficiency, legal certainty, legal correctness, impartiality in the decisions, legal predictability, accessibility for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) and better costs management. Unfortunately, although these intentions are to be welcomed, they are applied to a system which is inherently incapable of delivering equal justice.

Despite the suggested improvements, the proposal raises concerns of compatibility with the EU Treaties, does not consider the practical difficulties in the creation and implementation of a MICS and leaves a wide list of hurdles unaddressed. EDRi encourages the Commission to request analysis from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), the highest court of the European Union, about the compatibility of its proposals with the Treaties. This would ensure legal certainty on a very important and highly controversial issue.

One of the unaddressed problems is that the proposal discriminates between foreign and local investors. It provides that foreign investors are given the right to circumvent domestic legal systems and use supranational adjudication to challenge government decisions, even though supranational adjudication places the development of law outside democratic oversight.

The proposal is also a threat to EU policy making, as it fails to meaningfully address substantial issues, such as the right to regulate, in practice as well as in principle.

In sum, the proposal is detrimental for democracy, human rights and the rule of law, and should therefore be strongly opposed.

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Questionnaire on options for a multilateral reform of investment dispute resolution http://trade.ec.europa.eu/consultations/index.cfm?consul_id=233

EDRi’s reponse to the public consultation on a multilateral reform of investment dispute resolution (15.03.2017)
https://edri.org/files/consultations/mutlilateralinvestmentcourt_edriresponse_20170315.pdf

EDRi’s response to the ISDS consultation (13.07.2014)
https://edri.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/EDRi_response_ISDS_Consultation.pdf

Inception Impact Assessment: Establishment of a Multilateral Investment Court for investment dispute resolution (01.08.2016)
http://ec.europa.eu/smart-regulation/roadmaps/docs/2016_trade_024_court_on_investment_en.pdf

EDRi: Consultation on multilateral investment court misses the point (22.02.2017)
https://edri.org/consultation-on-multilateral-investment-court-misses-the-point/

Multilateral investment court strengthens investments vis-a-vis democracy and fundamental rights (08.03.2017)
https://people.vrijschrift.org/~ante/isds/multilateral-investment-court-2017.pdf

(Contribution by Tommaso Crepax, EDRi intern)

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17 Mar 2017

Open letter: direct and indirect lobbying needs to be better regulated

By EDRi

European Digital Rights (EDRi) and more than 100 civil society organisations joined the Alliance for Lobby Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU), Civil Society Europe and Transparency International EU in sending a letter on lobby transparency.

The letter was sent to the key MEPs concerned with the interinstitutional negotiations to review of the EU Transparency Register. This letter is important as big business lobbying practices are having an undue influence over EU policy-makers. If we want digital rights and citizens’ interests to be respected, lobbying needs to be strictly regulated.

In the letter, we ask:

  • MEPs not to meet with unregistered lobbyists;
  • for more resources to the EU lobby register secretariat;
  • for the definition of lobbying to cover direct and indirect influence EU policy- and decision-making;
  • to make the transparency registration obligatory.

You can read the letter below or here (pdf):

Dear Vice President Guillaume, Dear Ms Hübner,

Inter-institutional negotiations on EU lobby transparency As the negotiations between the European Parliament, the Commission and the Council on a revised lobby transparency register will shortly get underway, we hope that the European Parliament will stand firm as both an advocate for strong lobby transparency, and also as an advocate for a fully transparent and open negotiating process which champions the public interest.

Lobby transparency is an important tool in the fight for public interest decision-making at the European level. We want to see a comprehensive lobby transparency register which covers both direct and indirect lobbying, and that can tell us accurately who is influencing EU decision-making, on which issues, on whose behalf, and with what budgets. This should be the ultimate goal of these negotiations.

In particular, we hope that you will prioritise the following demands:

1. A commitment that MEPs should only meet with registered lobbyists

Building on the recent vote on MEP Corbett’s Rules of Procedures report in which MEPs agreed to only meet with registered lobbyists, it will be imperative that the Parliament concretises this commitment within the new lobby register. Such a rule would not affect MEPs who meet with citizens from their constituencies, local civic associations or small-scale entrepreneurs; in fact we welcome contact between MEPs and their constituents. None of these groups would need to join the register unless they met a minimum threshold requirement for lobbying activity. But this rule would greatly enhance the current voluntary register, by narrowing opportunities for lobbying by unregistered organisations, and will greatly encourage the Commission to extend its own ban on meeting unregistered lobbyists to a far greater number of officials.

2. A commitment to provide more resources to the register secretariat

In 2015, Transparency International estimated that over half the entries in the EU lobby register contained factual errors or implausible numbers. All institutions, including the Parliament, should urgently devote new resources to the register secretariat to improve the quality of the data, so as to be able to perform a far greater number of checks on declarations each year.

3. Retaining the current definition of lobbying which includes both direct and indirect lobbying

We are very concerned about the Commission’s proposal to weaken the definition of lobbying in the transparency register which seeks to limit it to only direct interactions with decision-makers. We feel it is essential to explicitly retain the current definition of lobbying which covers all activities which have the objective of directly or indirectly influencing EU policy-making and decision-making. This will ensure a far greater set of activities are covered by the financial disclosure rules of the register, including the indirect lobbying work performed by many ‘intermediaries’ such as lobby consultancies.

4. A commitment to a legally-binding lobby register in the long-term

A lobby register which is no longer voluntary, but is instead backed by the force of law, is essential if all lobbyists are to sign-up, while the possibility of fines or prosecutions will help ensure that more accurate data is provided. The Commission’s proposal makes no progress towards this goal and we urge the Parliament to remain firm in its support for a legally-binding lobby register (as backed by plenary votes in 2014, 2011 and 2008).

We believe that the European Parliament must seize the opportunity presented by this interinstitutional agreement process to demand a far more effective lobby register. Such a register should be the first, essential step in a much longer process to make EU policy-making far more transparent, tackle excessive corporate influence, and bring the EU institutions closer to citizens.

Please get in touch if you have any questions or would like to discuss any of these issues.

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16 Mar 2017

Open letter: Community Networks essential in providing affordable internet access

By EDRi

EDRi joined a coalition of more than 25 European Community Networks and alternative internet access providers, and 35 civil society organisations in signing a letter in support of Community Networks in Europe. Today, 16 March, the letter was sent to European policy-makers with recommendations to ensure the continuous development of these citizen initiatives, which provide an alternative, democratic and sustainable way of managing telecommunications infrastructures and meet the goals of broadband policies.

Community Networks are a growing movement of organisations that operate local communication infrastructure, built by local communities and organisations in a bottom-up and democratic way. The goal is to provide affordable internet access to everybody. Community networks are especially important with regard to the shortcomings of the current telecommunications policies, which do not ensure the providers competing in the market meet communication needs of underprivileged communities.

Besides better internet connectivity, community networks also offer citizen engagement, resiliency, education, innovation, and the basis for reclaiming our digital sovereignty from the global corporations dominating the digital economy. Community networks have been systematically overlooked by policy-makers, and their values and models are being jeopardised by various policies. With the letter to the European Commission, EU Member State delegations and members of the European Parliament, we hope to facilitate a debate and provide the political framework for sustaining a diverse and democratic environment in the telecommunications sector.

Read the letter here.

If you wish to support the letter and participate in next stages, you are invited to write to advocacy@netcommons.eu.

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13 Mar 2017

Civil society urges EU institutions to stop the “censorship machine” in the copyright proposal

By EDRi

EDRi has signed a joint open letter together with 27 other civil society organisations expressing concerns about European Commission’s copyright proposal. The proposal requires internet platforms to use automated upload filtering technologies. This obligation would impact negatively on free speech and democracy by building a system where citizens will face internet platforms blocking the upload of their content, even if it is a perfectly legal use of copyrighted content.

You can read the letter below:

The undersigned, working to defend human and consumer rights around the world, express their deep concern regarding the European Commission’s proposal to require Internet platforms to use automated upload filtering technologies. This legislative proposal also includes measures to weaken the current intermediary liability protections in European law. Although the proposal is contained in draft legislation on copyright in Europe, the impact will inevitably be felt in every policy area and will impact negatively on free speech and democracy around the globe.

In effect, the proposed upload filter obligation will build a system where citizens will face Internet platforms blocking the upload of their content, even if it is a perfectly legal use of copyrighted content.

This is an affront to the rule of law and freedom of expression. Logically, the computer programs used for filtering will be designed to ensure minimum risk and liability for those platforms. These programs cannot understand the functioning of crucial copyright exceptions that are implemented to support, just to name a few, education, parody, free speech and quotation. The European Commission’s proposal places excessive power in the hands of copyright owners, despite many examples of past abuses of such power, genuine mistakes and cases where copyright claims have been used as a political censorship tool on a massive scale.

If Europe contravenes its own decades-old human rights framework that defends privacy and freedom of communication, the democratic and free speech rights of individuals around the globe will suffer. If these monitoring and filtering obligations are coupled with a weakening of Europe’s balanced approach to intermediary liability, the damage to democratic and free speech rights of individuals around the globe will be compounded. Protection from liability is not a “privilege” for Internet companies, it is an essential mechanism to ensure that these companies are not incentivised to restrict the privacy and free speech rights of their users.

The proposal of the European Commission would

  • lead to the types of filtering that have already been deemed contrary to the Charter of Fundamental Rights by the Court of Justice of the European Union,
  • threaten to destabilise the delicately balanced, horizontal approach when dealing with liability for online content by creating an exceptional regime for copyright,
  • remove users’ freedoms to use copyrighted material for recognised legal uses (parody, education, quotation and more) as reflected in European law.

For the sake of the human rights of citizens in the European Union and around the globe, we urge the European institutions to reject Article 13 and the associated explanatory recitals of the European Commission’s copyright proposal.

Signatories:

EDRi, Brussels
Wikimedia Deutschland, Germany
Asociatia pentru Tehnologie si Internet, Romania
Digital Rights Ireland, Ireland
Initiative für Netzfreiheit, Germany
vibe!at, Austria
Panoptykon Foundation, Poland
Centrum Cyfrowe, Poland
COMMUNIA Association for Public Domain, Europe
ANSOL, Portugal
Initiative gegen ein Leistungsschutzrecht, Germany
epicenter.works, Austria
IT-Political Association, Denmark
Public Knowledge, United States
OpenMedia, Canada
EFF, United States
Xnet, Spain
Bitbureauet, Denmark
Digitalcourage, Germany
Open Rights Group, United Kingdom
Vrijschrift, Netherlands
Digitale Gesellschaft, Germany
SHARE Foundation, Serbia
GFOSS – Open Technology Alliance, Greece
Creative Commons, United States
Kennisland, Netherlands
Modern Poland Foundation, Poland
Bits of Freedom, Netherlands

Letter: Stop the censorship machine!
https://stopthecensorshipmachine.net/

Save the meme!
https://savethememe.net/

Stop #CensorshipMachine
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qAcTeYtUzQY

Deconstructing Article 13 of the Copyright proposal of the European Commission
https://edri.org/files/copyright/copyright_proposal_article13.pdf

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13 Mar 2017

#NetCompetition wants an improved Electronic Communications Code

By Maryant Fernández Pérez

Today, on 13 March 2017, #NetCompetition, an alliance of consumer organisations, service providers and network operators, digital rights organisations and online content providers, adopted its position paper on the European Commission’s proposal for a European Electronic Communications Code.

Despite some general positive aspects, we have concluded that the proposed Directive to establish a European Electronic Communications Code could severely damage competition within EU broadband markets. It is thanks to the strong pro-competitive safeguards provided by today’s EU network access regulation that citizens and businesses have so far had access to top class connectivity at affordable prices.

our paper reads. Pro-competitive regulation is one of Europe’s biggest success stories.

#NetCompetition alliance members share the opinion of the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) that investment will not be incentivised through deregulation. This is shown by experience over the last fifteen years. Effective and sustainable competition has been the driving force of success of the European liberalisation process in the telecoms sector. Therefore, the #NetCompetition allies urge the Council and the European Parliament to amend the Commission’s proposal “to re-establish and indeed strengthen the current successful pro-competitive approach”. In addition, #NetCompetition urges the EU co-legislators to continue ensuring BEREC’s independence in the proposed reform of that organisation.

The issues mentioned in this position paper are also relevant for the European Parliament’s upcoming Own-Initiative Report on the Gigabit Society and 5G. In addition, EDRi made recommendations to the draft report in order to promote the openness of the internet and reflect the full legal framework under which the Gigabit society and the deployment of 5G will be developed.

EDRi’s view is that competition, independence of the regulators, respect and enforcement of good EU net neutrality and privacy rules (which give practical application to the Charter of Fundamental Rights), should be the driving force of the Telecoms Review package.

The #NetCompetition alliance was set up on 16 November 2015 to promote the on-going availability and better affordable internet access through healthy competition.

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NetCompetition
http://savenetcompetition.eu/

NetCompetition principles
http://savenetcompetition.eu/NetCompPrinciples.pdf

#NetCompetition position paper on the European Commission’s proposal for a European Electronic Communications Code
https://edri.org/files/netcompetitionalliance_position_electroniccommunicationscode_20170308.pdf

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