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Leaked document: EU Presidency calls for massive internet filtering (edri.org)
490 points by sdiepend on Sept 6, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 138 comments



Non-EU readers should bear in mind that the presidency of the EU is much much weaker than that of, say, the US. It's rotated around the countries on a schedule, and has mainly agenda-setting authority.

That is, countries who hold the presidency will use it to try to get movement on some issues that they care about, but it doesn't have anywhere close to enough power to get something passed which the other member states do not agree with. Real power sits with the Commission, the Council of Ministers and the Parliament in various proportions.


For this reason the article seems at least a little alarmist.

It wouldn't be news that Estonian politics is delving into censorship/surveillance; tacking on "EU Presidency" just ads faux-gravitas.


There are times i wonder if politicians use EU as a "trump card". This in the sense of getting it into a EU directive and then turning around to the nation, stating as it is part of an EU directive their hands are tied...


There's a long list of cases where the UK has done this…


Could you share some?


Oh they could, and it might be easier since as far as I know, the general population has very little influence over who gets to sit in the EU government.


You mean aside from the fact that MEPs - the politicians sitting in the EU government - are elected by the general population?


Please don't use the mere existence of the "Mickey Mouse" parliament as an evidence of direct representation to the EU as the parliament have literally none of the roles or authority of a real parliament but is mostly ceremonial, like the president of the EU.

The real power is and have always been with the council of ministers who is appointed by the member governments, and in practice only responsible to the member parliaments and not the EU parliament, who barely have authority to overrule the larger and more permanent commission, let alone propose any legislation.

Don't get me wrong I am pro EU but the current structure is pretty strange and mostly dysfunctional in trying to spread the pain evenly and prone to being dominated by large corporate interest groups.


Not a single piece of EU legislation (both directive and regulation) can be enacted without a majority in the EU parliament.

The only difference to national governments is the lack of a right to initiate legislation. But in practice, they just stick anything they want into any vaguely related piece of regulation. They do have the power to amend.


Even if what you stated was true(which is isn't for all cases) it's still a complete reversal of how every single other democratic parliament works as the EU parliament cannot propose anything.

It's correct that the commission(which it itself fairly powerless) have to ask the MEP for yes and no on directives, that is not the case on all regulations passed by the council of ministers as the council can choose to bypass the EU parliament, in cases where no disagreement exist within the council.


There are significant differences:

- no power to propose laws

- process heavily skewed in such way that it's extremely rare to throw Comission proposals entirely

- current procedure for reaching comprosive between EP and Comission is: small working group hashes out compromise text with no public oversight, is then rubber-stamped by plenary

- crucially, low citizen visibility into EP's working, no oversight

The last point is, I believe, crucial. EP is a dumping ground for politicians who failed nationally and gets virtually no press attention. What happens in national parliaments is news, covered in detail, even though the importance of EP, as the place where things can be influenced, is much bigger.

It is very much disfunctional as a democracy.


the appointed commission forms the government (executive), not the parliament

the head of the commission is chosen by the parliament, and the head of the commission then appoints commissioners

commissioners have a tendency to be disgraced former national politicians who have become unelectable at home (e.g. Jean-Claude Juncker, Peter Mandelson)


The commissioners have to be nominated by member-state governments. The head of the commission doesn't really have much practical power to block them, although he gave give them more or less powerful portfolios.


The commission as a whole has to be approved by the directly elected parliament. It can also be dismissed by the parliament at any time (which has happened before).

The situation is quite similar to a number of member states (e.g Germany) where neither the prime minister nor cabinet ministers have to be members of parliament and the government itself is not elected by the people.


The MEP are not part of the government, they are part of the parliament, which is elected by the public. The EU comission (which is the government), is decided upon by the national governments. Only the head of the comission was elected (indirectly) by the people.

Edit: Btw, the head of the comission is more like what the US would think of an actual president. The president, OP talks about is more like a representing nation.


The whole Commission has to be approved by the European Parliament, not just their President. The European Parliament has forced the European Council to remove candidates before approving the Commission multiple time in the past. In that sense the Commission is more directly elected by the people than e.g. German ministers (who can be chosen at will by the Chancellor).

And of course the national governments are elected (indirectly) by the people as well which makes everyone who they elect also indirectly elected (albeit through more indirection).


The EU commission is also indirectly elected by the people in a (maybe tenuous) way. Member state populations elect their national governments, those governments put forward commissioners. They're not that much different to civil servants in national government really.


We do not elect the national goverments. We elect political parties in the national parliament who then form a government or a coalition and appoint comissioners in the EC. There is in fact little representation.


They vote for their parliaments and the EU parliament. Depending on national rules, the first nominates a commissioner, or they vote for an executive who does. The second has a veto.

It's really no more removed than any US cabinet member, especially if you figure in the electoral college–yes, that's rather symbolic. But the difference to electing a parliament which elects the executive in the EU member state is still rather small.


They definitely do that in Germany.


examples?


The ban on incandescent lightbulbs went that route (for Germany): agreed to be the right thing to do but fraught with the possibility of attack by populists decrying the nanny state.


It would surprise me if they didn't.


Has happened in The Netherlands as well, sadly.


It's not the least alarmist. The EU Presidency is an real office that has a real function, and the leaked document literally says in the first line "From: Presidency".


It's a proposal to be implemented EU-wide, not just in Estonia, so the presidency seems relevant.


But the presidency has no actual power to get it passed.


No, they have the power to "call for" it, which is what they have done (and the article says they've done).


True. One wonders what Estonia, or its government, has to gain from this, though.


It's the same thing all autocrats want which is to consolidate their power while protecting the little people from themselves.

I can see where they are coming from though; I'm pretty sure the investigations of Internet usage that turn up on politicians desks contain pretty disconcerting information about the human condition.


This seems to be focused on copyright, not "protecting the little people from themselves." I find a financial reason more likely to be behind this push.


Yes after finding and reading the document (TFA was hosed) I have totally misunderstood it's content; maybe a better headline including the word copyright would help.


Thank you for admitting the misunderstanding.

It's really dangerous to go around calling democratically elected governments "autocratic". These people really do try, and there's really no indication that any government except maybe Hungary is bent on perpetuating their power. Calling them names just removes any incentives for anybody to do well: Why bother, if you're just going to be called an incompetent autocrat anyway?


That is what I would like to see leaked. How exactly this kind of thing start.

Who have the first conversation that we finally see as "the Estonia government want x". The same I would like to know about the free trade agreements.


e-Stonia has e-Residency, and various other internet-based shenanigans. You can get an e-passport, set up business, get residency, travel documents, online, I think. Just visit your local embassy with proof of id. They are selling themselves as a digital destination/economy. Russia occasionally does massive DDoS there. so ymmv. Not sure how that relates though just surprised it was them. Maybe they are leaking it because they want it nipped in the bud.


> One wonders what Estonia, or its government, has to gain from this, though.

As a guess, it's due to the threat to Estonia from Russia, which includes Russian cyber attacks and propaganda. Russia has used propaganda operations very effectively in Europe and the U.S. If the U.S. has trouble protecting itself, imagine Estonia's situation.

In response to the same issue, earlier this year (IIRC) I read about a similar call for government oversight of Internet publication by someone high in the UK government (but I didn't hear about it again after that).


This seems like the most plausible explanation. I recently read an article[1] regarding Ukraine's struggle against Russian propaganda.

[1] http://www.npr.org/2017/08/21/544952989/rough-translation-wh...


It looks like a copyright industry lobby. So most probably somebody at some level got paid.


The presidency becomes powerful if there are things the Comission is interested in. For example conservative countries like Poland or Hungary could push this agenda in exchange for a more open refugee law or other things that are challenging EU law or regulations.

Never underestimate that.


Also, EU presidency is not directly elected by the people.


So what? It's the PRESIDENT of EU, regardless of power... It says a lot about who's in charge of EU, the globalists. That's why BREXIT occurred, that's why Trump won: to fight them.


Brexit occured because people were lied to for years and years and conditioned to believe the EU was bad.


So there is no room for people to believe that EU is really bad? So that must be a lie? Come on...


I haven't heard one decent argument for leaving the UK.


Real power sits with Merkel.


Or Erdogan ?


Turkey is not part of the EU yet. I don't see how exactly the power "sits with Erdoğan".


Well, I heard people say he controls the flow of the "refugees", so he gets to make some decisions.


He can (and does) use that for leverage, but then, so could Italy, Spain, and Greece. I don't think he can get into the EU under threat of letting refugees through though, not while there's violations of human rights and such still going on in his country.


Not part or ever will be it seems. Their application officially just recently being moved to the out tray.


Turkey also won't be part of the EU. Both Merkel and her contestant for the current election stated on Sunday, that they have had enough and want to abort the negotiations about Turkey joining.


Even if they didn't abort, recent developments in Turkey have moved them significantly further away from meeting requirements for entry .


Just because we're hitting a bump along the road doesn't mean they won't join eventually. And I hope they do, they belong in the Union with us.


Erdogan controls a massive amount of refugees. Moreover, there's one or two pipelines crossing Turkey and I'm sure that helps to control things a bit too.

Of course I'm no politician, I've no access to confidential information, but I'm sure he might use that to influence Europe (and there's nothing wrong with that, that's international politics as usual).


Erdogan and the whole European east (Greece, Bulgaria, Ukraine) expansion was always just a big part of the anti-European strategy to binge grow this polit-amobea to death. And it has worked, in so far that it has accelerated the probable demise forward by at least twenty years.

Europe was always just a half hearted dream by its elites, who where not even enough into this vision, to share their power with the institutions they created. Now after the very same dream, has allowed for the life-standard growth of most of its citizens to disappear - they are in for a rude wake up with extremists devouring the corpse.


Literally nothing you're saying makes any sense on any level. This looks more like markov-chain generated text.


There is some truth in the idea that the growth of the EU was intended to slow down the process of federalization. The UK pushed hard for the growth in the 2000's and was also a proponent of Turkey joining for these reasons.


What about over-stretching a expansionist movement as a counter strategy does not make sense?

Europe has grown hard, not smart. It never evaluated what it integrated, and as a result, is more unstable then ever.


> Now after the very same dream, has allowed for the life-standard growth of most of its citizens to disappear - they are in for a rude wake up with extremists devouring the corpse.

What are you even talking about? We just had an Australian guest, who drove freely through Europe using one currency. These states previously fought two world wars against each other.


France nearly voted nationalist last vote. All of eastern europe is basically slowly abandoning democracy and demolishing its institutions. Germany is in for a AFD government.

Sorry, but drive through tourism does not paint a accurate picture.


> Germany is in for a AFD government.

It is very much not. That's just plain false. Right-wing governments have been elected everywhere (US, Australia etc.). I don't deny that the EU has played a role, but you are painting a very dark picture of an institution which has a primarily positive influence on the world.


If 35% to 66% is "nearly" getting "nationalist vote" then yeah. You can also say that despite a huge economic recession, the unexpected influx of a large population of war refugees and on the back of Brexit, the populist far-right only got half of the votes the elected party got in the end and that's actually comforting, because scaring people off is always easier than vision and reform planification.


China’s example is massive.

China’s success has proven that countries can succeed without adopting western liberal freedoms. In fact, success adopting only a small subset of economic and personal freedoms, and none of the political freedoms. The economy is good, the state is stable..

Proof of concept for non-liberal systems.

This means freedoms need to be argued for on their own merits. Free speech for its own sake. No censorship for its own sake. etc.

Much harder. Much more prone to compromise and erosion.


A huge chunk of millennials are non longer believe in free speech [0], and everyone seems to agree that Facebook et. al's censorship of objectionable content is great. Between the insanity of the current government/far right, and the rise of the far/tankie left, I'm not sure that liberalism is long for this world, even in the West.

[0] http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/11/20/40-of-millen...


> everyone seems to agree that Facebook et. al's censorship of objectionable content is great

Hardly. Especially on the left. Including such issues as the ban on breastfeeding photos, ban on trans people using their names, and widespread failure to ban hate speech.

(I'm sure I've seen one case of someone recieving a pile of death threats, reporting them, getting told they were "not offensive", then reposting them as an image to say what sort of garbage facebook tolerates .. and then getting that post deleted by facebook. But not any of the original abuse.)


Just because they advocate freedom to express those ideas does not mean they advocate freedom of speech as a whole. Talking about anything not in the liberal vogue right now opens one up to a world of hurt that wasn't as prevalent even 10 years ago. Bring up being against draconian gun control and, depending on where you live and how large your social circle is, you might get a reputation for being a bunch of things you're not. I'm often seen as a conservative for bringing up the fact that violent crime in America is down, or challenging misconceptions about GMOs or criticizing Bill Nye the Science Guy(no, I'm not kidding), or even so much as questioning the accuracy of the gender pay gap statistic. Yet I have nothing in common with the kind of "conservatives" people are talking about. In fact I'd argue that almost all of my actual positions are far more liberal and progressive than that of most liberals.

The problem is that free speech of any value has to be facilitated by the likes of Facebook and other companies. If companies control who gets banned for saying something, and their goal is largely profit-driven, and the consensus is to make communication habitable for the most consumers(as opposed to actual expression of ideas beyond vapid Instagram photos), we are essentially screwed. The left is at an advantage because they have the facade of being the ones who fight for social injustice and those who are "historically oppressed", which are things that most people, including many conservatives, can't really argue against on face value; when they are handed the keys to media power, they behave just as conservative religious fundamentalists would, just with their own particular set of ideas that are not always congruent.

That is why I find the public's support of censorship, and the socially-acceptable level of vexation over "offensive" ideas, to be very disturbing. I find that I cannot even trust a large number of people who I know, and I think many people have discovered the same thing, which is why platforms like Facebook have turned into digital ghettos.


> world of hurt that wasn't as prevalent even 10 years ago

Well this sounds unfortunate ...

> might get a reputation for being a bunch of things you're not

.. but that's just other people's free speech?

> I'm often seen as a conservative for bringing up the fact that violent crime in America is down

True, and also free speech. I'm slightly surprised this labels you as a conservative.

I'm not really seeing the "world of hurt", just a world of other people's free speech?


>.. but that's just other people's free speech?

No. That saying "Hey, I want to own my own semi auto rifle." leads to someone thinking you are alt-right has nothing to do with freedom of speech. Their expressing their view of you being alt-right does, but the logical jump itself does not.

Now, people are free to think what ever they want. Not exactly given in a single Amendment, but people would agree holding some belief is a freedom. But we can still say that some beliefs being wide spread is a bad thing.

>True, and also free speech.

Their spreading their view of grandparent as being conservative is free speech. Their actually having this view is not related to free speech at all.

Take a comparison, imagine extremely racist views became extremely widespread and people kept bringing them up. Even though this is free speech, we still put limits on it. For example, the notion of creating a hostile work environment and the penalties that can bring.


I don't recall a time in history when publishers (what Facebook et al. are) were required or expected to publish whatever any random person or organizations opinions.

Furthermore, the country most in favor of limiting free speech to protect minorities, Germany(70% pro, 29% against, total population) , ironically has the most experience with the dangers of both extremes of allowances on speech. On one hand the Nazi's were able to rise to power partly because they were able to publicly scapegoat groups of people who were eventually slaughtered en mass. On the other hand you have the Stasi who would torture and murder people based on a whiff of being critical of the ruling party.

Look, I'm for free speech, but lets not pretend that its an issue that doesn't require a modicum of nuance to approach.


> publishers (what Facebook et al. are)

They're not publishers, so your argument falls apart in the very first sentence.

I don't recall a time in history when services (what Facebook et al. are) were allowed to police the content of communications made with their service. I don't recall AT&T, when they allow customers to communicate using their telephone lines, being allowed to police the content of those communications. I don't allow printer manufacturers being allowed to police the things people print.

Before you reach for the keyboard to type the words, "that's different" - no, no it's not. It's not different at all. Facebook offers a service. They aren't publishers. My analogy is closer to reality than yours. It just so happens that Facebook is technically able to police my speech, and so you've chosen to shrug and say it's okay. If AT&T had been technically capable of listening to my speech and policing it, what argument would you make that they shouldn't be allowed to do that? Whatever argument you come up with, I make the same argument for facebook.

> I'm for free speech, but

"...but I'm not really for free speech."

It's all or nothing. You either accept it as a principle because you understand that it's literally the most important principle, or you don't. In your case, you don't.


I am really glad you made this comment. I know that this won't bring any "value" into the conversation but comments like these give me the much-needed hope and optimism that not all is lost (yet) .. well, except people arguing against your point. FS, You can not be "half pregnant" same as there is no such thing as "limited free speech". You either are allowed to think and share your thoughts freely or you are(or will soon become) enslaved, mentally, physically. @people below: History is written by the victors, you should never forget this, esp. when you are tempted to use a shallow, uneducated. ad-hoc out-of-context history reference. How can you distill any conclusions from our history if you did not manage to overcome your mental bubble, did not do the grunt work and actually went over all available sources. if you did, regardless of your thought predispositions(I have no inclination on that part, believe me), it would at least teach you modesty(like in any other science field, the more you know the more modest / careful you are when referencing a subject of your expertise). Liked that AT&T analogy


A publisher is anyone who distributes information and brands it under their label. AT&T is not this, AT&T is more akin to the power company. If you're a neon sign maker no one can force you to make a sign that says"Irish Need Not Apply". However if you have a sign that says the above the power company can't turn off your power for it. If you put a tag on the sign that says power by acme power company, then they can shut you off.

This is because by posting on facebook or appearing on google you are implicitly now a representative of them because they're branding is all over that homepage. If you say something that facebook really disagrees with and would rather not say they have every right to not say it.

It's why Cloudflare didn't drop the Daily Stormer until after DS started to try and say the CF was on board with their views.


I find this metaphorical argumentation incredibly boring. Either Facebook is a metaphor for the phone company, or it's a metaphor for a publisher. Who cares? Maybe we need a third category. Maybe we need to end common carriers entirely. We're obviously treading new ground here. Let's argue about proposed law, how it works, and cost/benefit analysis.

What law you would write and who it should apply to? You think Facebook should be mandated to host all non-illegal content, yes?

What about Flickr? What about Gardening.com? What about NoNazisAllowed.com? What would you propose as the legal standard for deciding who is a common carrier and who is not?

I don't have a horse in this race, but let's at least start the discussion with something concrete.


Why is it all or nothing? The other poster already brought up Germany, it isn't all or nothing there and they seem fine.


The problem with your analogy is that it is tied to a very small window in history.

Has liberalism and free speech only existed in the time span where there's been regulated common-carrier type "services"?

Lets roll back the clock to before AT&T. Was there free speech and liberalism? Was any printer required to print anyone's manuscript? Was any newspaper required to be open to all opinions? Was any private person or organization required to spread those opinions across the world?

Historically, Facebook is much more like an open-to-the-masses publisher/distributor than you claim, with the difference resting more in economics (cost of publishing) than anything else. But that difference is hugely significant in practical terms - an unrestricted Facebook doesn't have much historical analog at all, hence the debate.


I agree that it doesn't have much a historical precedent and its important to have this debate, I'm not sure where I fall on it myself if I'm being honest, but facebook does have historical precedent in its size, in the past we've busted up corporations that have grown to this size into smaller individual entities but idk how you'd do that with fb, you could spin off instagram or maybe spin off its video hosting services but this all gets really tricky really fast.


My prefered analogy is an online forum. Online forums have existed for about 30-40 years without much regulation. And what people have figured out in that time is that in order to run a successful community forum you need strong moderation, otherwise it'll be destroyed by the spammers and the assholes. Determining who the spammers and the assholes are is somewhat of an artform, moderators need flexibility to guide the community towards civil discourse, you can't have strict moderation rules. Asking for the government to regulate online forums is ridiculous.


Right, nobody is arguing that facebook doesn't have a right to do this. It's just alarming that eg the NyTimes portray it as facebook's responsibility.

EDIT: apparenty people do talk about free speech, but they seem unaware of their rights.


Interesting survey, but political opinion surveys are tricky and I think it's hard to say anything concrete.

The ideal "find your words despicable but defend your right to say them" is not all that common in practice, never has been. It's an idealist's position.

I'd guess that the results have more to do with political leanings on the underlying issue, than the free speech one. IE, the more concerned with hate speech, the more illiberal they are in the survey. Change "offensive to minority groups" to "spread lies about the President," and I suspect a different spread.

It needs to be courts who defend these things and they'll do it, if the laws are there.


> tankie left

I had to look that one up. A tankie is a hardline stalinist who defends old USSR policies in all cases. I really have a hard time believing that there is a rise in people like that.

The whole "antifa is just as bad"/"hard right and hard left are the same" thing just helps mask the real rise of the alt-right who have amassed a lot of power, they just helped elect a president. The hard-left has nowhere near that much power.


While I agree that it's stunning and alarming if true that 40% of millennials think the gov't should be allowed to arrest people for making racist statements, I don't see where Facebook fits into this situation. They are a private organization and should be allowed to do whatever they feel is necessary to protect their business interests (within legal limits). Personally I don't really use Facebook anymore for a host of reasons. If they want to start filtering all kinds of speech they disagree with, they can go ahead at the risk of losing members. But I don't have a problem with it. Every organization has its skew whether you see it or not.


Let's deal with one issue at a time. Our current government actively suppresses minority votes - a step beyond suppressing speech. Get rid of that then redo the survey in 10 years and you'll see a shift back toward freedom of speech. If you're going to uphold a principle for one group then you need to uphold it for all groups. If you don't do that then why should it apply to any group?


So-called tankies are pretty much irrelevant though.


> tankie

Tankies? I think of that as the Communists who supported Stalin's invasion of Hungary in the 1950s. What does that mean here?


Yeah - there's a ton of them around the internet these days. Tankies are the sort of people who defend the Venezuelan and North Korean governments on r/socialism, for example.

I have no idea what chunk of the actual population they are, but I know a lot of people in Antifa self identify as tankies. I could be wrong though, usually am.


Even the "liberal" states have never had unlimited freedom of speech and broadcast to the same extent as internet libertarians would imagine.

The ECHR Article 10 recognises this:

"1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary."

.. which is how Germany can have its ban on Nazi symbols.


Sheesh! the ECHR's phrasing is awful. ..The protection of morals?

I agree though. They haven't. Even in countries with a high regard for free speech, there are exceptions. Nor is internet censorship the end of democracy.

But, directionality is important in politics. China provides an alternative example, that breaks many of the "rules" entirely. You can have a great firewall. China does. It's doing OK. Why can't Turkey? Why can't India? Why can't the EU?

^thanks for posting, btw. I've never read it, and I'm a citizen.

^^Ok… that caveat appears 5 times, allowing the limiting of 5 different rights for almost any reason any member state decides.

This really bothers me. I wish they had left these rights out, and only included rights that they can actually agree on.


> Sheesh! the ECHR's phrasing is awful. ..The protection of morals?

That's there to allow a ban on porn. Which the US has as well, despite not having a similar clause.

Article 10 is comparatively well drafted. It's Article 8's nebulous "family life" that's the problem, with all sorts of surprising implications. It's as bad a drafting mistake as the US's 2nd amendment.


A country with no systematic process for power transition that has survived all of 68 years? There are plenty of people older than the PRC. Wake me up in another century.


It's not like the USA has ever had unlimited free speech; it's still illegal to shout 'fire' in a crowded building or make certain kinds of threats (generally the specific kind.)

China thinks it should be illegal to say something that threatens the stability of the governing party as an institution, so they control information more heavily. But it's not yet clear what they've proven in the past 60-odd years. Remember that their centralized system did also lead to things like the 'Great Leap Forward'...

People still call the 250-year-old USA an experiment, and apparently it still has some surprises up its sleeve. So what does that make the upstart PRC? Certainly not a bedrock reaching back to Neo-Confuscionism and beyond.


>...It's still illegal to shout 'fire' in a crowded building

I don't think so:

>..."shouting fire in a crowded theater" refers to an outdated legal standard. At one point, the law criminalized such speech, which created a "clear and present danger." But since 1969, for speech to break the law, it can’t merely lead others to dangerous situations. It must directly encourage others to commit specific criminal actions of their own.

http://civil-liberties.yoexpert.com/civil-liberties-general/...


There’s a difference between recognising a fundamental right and not recognising it at all in my opinion.

China breaks from the “norm” drastically in a lot of ways. It doesn’t recognise the right of the public to elect officials, for example. There are lost of countries with flawed/fake democracies but most have democratic constitutions, officially. China is different.

20-30 years ago, liberal democracy was the only game in town. All new states formed on this basis. None of the ex-soviet states opted for official one-party constitutions, because it wasn’t one of the options.

There are many one party states, in practice. They don’t make it official. For example Egypt & Syria (also Iraq & Libya, formerly) have been one-party republics for 3 generations. Officially, they’re democracies because it was considered the only legitimate way. They rely on fake elections, emergency laws or some other theatre to get around their own official norms.

My point is that if arab revolutions of the 60s or post soviet revolutions of the 90s had happened today, they may have opted for the “Chinese Model” instead.

But, constitutions aren’t written every day. Laws are. Regulations are written every minute.

I’m trying not to be normative or negative about China. Just noting that China as an example, has an impact. It’s now a superpower and acts as a role model. A moderate position on internet censorship is now someplace between “uncensored” and “china.” Anything in between is within the “normal” range.


> My point is that if arab revolutions of the 60s or post soviet revolutions of the 90s had happened today, they may have opted for the “Chinese Model” instead.

What about Arab spring of 2011? They still tried to setup a democracy afterwards. One of the motive for those revolution where abuse of power by the governments and by the police. This things are hard to deal with if you don't recognize a number of rights to your citizens.


The Brandenburg ruling was never about anybody shouting fire in a crowded building but about a left wing newspaper encouraging people to protest the draft by non-violent civil disobedience rendering the US constitution effectively one of the weakest on free speech of any western nation.


> make certain kinds of threats (generally the specific kind.)

It is very hard to prosecute someone based on threats. You have to be able to prove intent to follow through.


That highly depends on your definition of success. An argument can be made that at least part if not all of the West is failing just as China has to provide a free society. At least in the U.S., free speech and other rights have always been argued "for their own sakes" and that's why the constitution sees them as inalienable. These rights do not exist to make society better or people's lives less hard, they exist because the people have decided that they come before government and are essential to life. They have decided that these rights exist a priori. Unfortunately, we have mostly failed to protect them as such even after enshrining them in the constitution. Our government has just failed a little less than China's.


> China’s success has proven that countries can succeed without adopting western liberal freedoms.

The west is an example of a region that can succeed without "western" liberal freedoms. "Western" liberal freedoms in the west were things attained after becoming wealthy and stable.


Except that success is, well, relative. Defining success is impossible because you can't have an agreed upon frame of reference.

However, freedom is not. Freedom is well defined. The right to travel. The right to exchange your currency, or your work value. The right to buy and sell stuff with foreign countries (ie: trade).

Think your country ban travelling for 6 months to save up on hard currencies. Think your country banning certain imports (luxury)

China might be good for the average and bottom person but not for the freedom seeker.


China is riding a wave of economic growth. When the growth runs out, we'll see how stable the state really is.


> China’s success has proven that countries can succeed without adopting western liberal freedoms.

I agree that it's perceived that way by many, and perception is reality to a great extent.

However, the jury is still out. Many countries have advanced to China's level of development while remaining authoritarian. S. Korea and Taiwan did it from roughly the 1950s to the 1980s. But it's hard to name one that advanced beyond that without adopting democracy.

It's also interesting to look at in historical context (all of the following is based on memory from reading Chinese history; probably a few details are off): Before the Opium Wars in the mid-19th century, China saw itself as the center of the world, far superior to all other nations, and had been using the same political system, under a variety of rulers, since roughly 250 BC (with many long interruptions).

The economic and military superiority of the Western powers was a shock, and China tried to adjust by changing as little as possible in order to maintain the culture and political system (and political power of the elite, of course). The steps they took were something like the following: First they tried to just buy the weapons, but that didn't work - you need skilled people to maintain them, supplies, etc.; you need skilled commanders and training; and you need to build them yourself or be dependent on foreign powers. Then they tried just hiring, then training a few people. Then realizing they needed the foundation of Western intellectual resources (science, open inquiry, etc.) to use Western tech effectively and to compete, IIRC they tried to open Western education to just a few. ... None of the half-measures were nearly effective enough, and in 1911 the Qing dynasty collapsed and a period of civil war began which ended in 1949 when the Communists conquered the country. Due in part to the horrible behavior of the Western powers and of others such as Japan, who all took advantage of China's weakness (remember that the UK actually controlled a major Chinese city until 1997), the period from the Opium Wars to 1949 is called the Century of Humiliation by some.

The recent attempt to adopt a Western economy without a Western political system seems, in a way, to be a continuation of the 19th century policies; I'm not sure it will be successful. The Communists are like the Confucian dynasties in other ways too. For example, the focus on corruption fits perfectly; a well-known theory of the cycle of the dynasties includes them collapsing under corruption. The Communists are fighting hard not to have history repeat itself, but IMVHO, it's no coincidence: A great advantage of democracy is the great reduction of corruption (though there still is too much); the free press reveals it, opposing parties harp on it, and the corrupt get voted out of office. Imagine the corruption of a U.S. political party that had been in office since 1949, couldn't get voted out of office, had no opposition, and controlled the press.


>western liberal freedoms

I'm sure China would happily adopt "western liberal freedoms" if didn't mean opening their citizens to brainwashing by western media and all their data being accessible to the CIA.


How sure?


Because China is all about growth at the moment and having citizens open to new ideas would only encourage growth if it was not for western elites using establishment media to tell everyone how bad China is.


Yes, China censoring the internet is entirely based on us saying China is bad for censoring the internet.

How laughably circular. Governments do not get to be immune to criticism.


>China censoring the internet is entirely based on us saying China is bad for censoring the internet.

Western elites have been trying to brainwash people against China since long before the idea of the internet was conceived.

>Governments do not get to be immune to criticism.

Edward Joseph Snowden.


> the Presidency has worked hard in order to make the proposal for the new copyright Directive even more harmful than the Commission’s original proposal,

I read that as "corporations can enforce copyright... I can't"

See Youtube drama of a news organization using someone's video without attribution or payment... and then filing automated copyright claims against the original, because parts of the "copyrighted news broadcast" appear verbatim in the video.


The basic problem with copyright is that it was basically from day one aimed at being between large entities (authors, backed by the state, vs publishers/printers).

But in recent decades, as technology has made it easy for individuals to produce copies, this has shifted into a couple of large entities vs the individual.

The first few moves in that direction (copiers, analog tape recorders) were largely ignored or papered over by exceptions because policing them were a practical impossibility.

But with the net every home have a implacable snitch. And thus there is a policing potential emerging that may well make STASI look like keystone cops.


Completely agree.

When corporations are allowed to enforce the rules, they bend them so that the corporation profits. They also then 1984 the whole situation by using double-speak to explain the situation.

I once worked for a company that announced they were doubling our conmission rates from 5 to 10 percent.

They couldnt be happier to tell us all about how they were going to pay us more, so we quickly suspected something weird was going on.

Well that all was slowly revealed when 3 months later, commissions on deals were being "denied" in full. "Deal is too large." "Deal is not in your territory." "Deal is not on a commission elligible product."

So the rates were doubled. But 2x of $0 is still $0.


I think there's also a serious risk of infringing on fair use/fair dealing and even remixes and so on here. An algorithm can't tell whether you're using content for piracy or for criticism. As you point out, YouTube's Content ID system has given us a fantastic preview of the potential problems here.


Their solution seems to be mandating providers to offer a mechanism for redressing grievances and having the rightsholders explain themselves in a reasonable time period. It seems to be just for PR (it doesn't seem to provide any mechanism in case the explanation is ridiculous), but it could provide an interesting venue for DDoSing copyright holders.


I sincerely hope that we will succeed in keeping the internet as democratic as possible and not let it be destroyed by corporate interests in the name 'terrorism prevention'.

I'd like to give a shout-out to epicenter.works, an Austrian NGO, which I've been following the last 1.5 years or so. I think it's hard to get the public engaged in these topics, but they seem to be really determined.

Here's a google translate link to one of their latest articles / achievements (preventing a 'surveillance package' in Austrian law):

https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=de&tl=en&u=h...


The Internet was never democratic. When did you get to vote on anything?


> When did you get to vote on anything?

October 2000, there were a worldwide online vote to select some members of the ICANN Board of Directors.

https://www.icann.org/news/icann-pr-2000-09-21-en


I love HN.


Anarchy might be a better description, and that too within reason and having been made less and less so over time via law enforcement and such. The dark web is more of that ideal, but you know where that ends up.


The Internet was built on a synergy between cooperation and competition between the players. As such, the state of disorder implied by "anarchy" does not fit either. Each new competing tech was based on a strong base/protocols/rules made in the previous iteration.

To this extend, the Internet's core is very conservative.


Anarchy as a political philosophy has nothing to do with disorder and rather more with "self-organising".

It's more akin to American libertarianism, but approached from a leftist perspective.


> keep[...] the internet as democratic as possible and not let it be destroyed by corporate interests in the name 'terrorism prevention'.

Yups. Exactly this is what's going on in my opinion as well.



"Terrorism prevention", alongside of "9/11" and "save the children", has been the work horse of western "democratic" political system to concentrate power and restrict liberties over the past 30 years. It has nothing to do with corporate interest, if not to please a vocal minority seen as a threatening to their reputation.


> upload filter

Your upload is my download. A user uploads an HTTP request to a server, and the server uploads an HTTP response to the user. Of course that sounds unnatural compared to the user downloading the HTTP response. But the difference between upload/download is purely semantic and only distinguishes the intent of the user. Regardless of terms used, data flows in one direction, then back in another. The only distinguishing factor is its direction and whether or not both sides can establish the initial connection. So in that sense, a server uploads data to the user, who implicitly permitted the sever to do so when establishing the connection.

This misappropriation of technical language to advance a policy goal is revealing in that it shows the concept is fundamentally unlegislatable and therefore unenforceable, or worse, arbitrarily enforceable.

This is just part of an ongoing legislative pattern of the past 5-10 years. My reading of its trajectory is that regulatory regimes will eventually require licenses to run any service behind public IP addresses, to register domain names, and to advertise BGP routes or run public DNS resolvers. When coupled with centralization of inbound routing infrastructure (transatlantic fiber) and/or increased regulation of IP transit companies, this licensing legislature will work effectively.


> A user uploads an HTTP request to a server, and the server uploads an HTTP response to the user.

Direction-wise, this is true, connection-wise, it's not. There is no active connection initiated from the server to the client; it's one long connection that is client->server, only the direction of the data changes.


Is anyone surprised at this? The internet is a single point which governs the majority of information and communication for the people now. Someone who is in power can potentially eliminate threats and increase their own power/wealth. I would be more surprised to find the opposite -- that the powerful had privately written a memo telling others that privacy matters more than their own power/wealth/safety.

Its like all the "shocking" revelations on the corruption of elections using voting machines -- hardly surprising given that the manipulation guarantees "legitimate" power from the people, the cost is fairly low relative to payoff, and the effect is largely untraceable.


> The internet is a single point which governs the majority of information and communication for the people now.

That is because instead of building mesh networks out of our routers, mobile phones, home servers, raspberry pis, we, in Europe, are waiting on the {government,council,leadership,isp,bigco} to do it for us. It would be more than possible to build city-wide networks in the UK and cross-city connections with, for example, long range ubiquity, without and ISP or corporation or BT involved, but nobody seems interested, because nobody care any more. Virgin blocked a few more sites, "meh".

I know this sounds like a rant, but I'd really love to see a worm which turns every wifi capable device into gigantic mesh network and see how ISPs panic.


The fact that it's not surprising shouldn't prevent us from being outraged and from demanding a repeal.


Personally, I think the cookie law could be expanded a bit further. Currently, I'm not always appropriately notified that the website I'm visiting uses cookies. How about we institute a law that requires browsers to implement a feature that detects when a cookie is stored, locks the browser and proceeds to play an unbridged rendition of the Ode to Freedom (yes, that's really what it's called) while displaying a full page warning that you have to manually accept. Later, we could expand the mechanism to cover websites that use CSS stylesheets.


So at a quick glance at the leaked document, it seems to contain provisions for requiring certain services to let copyright holders have unlicensed content pulled and to provide ways to stop such content being posted in the first place. Excluded from this group would be e.g. ISPs, storage providers and service providers whose primary function is not to distribute content to the public.

The article seems very alarmist and light on detail. This draft may well be pretty bad, but I'd recommend reading it to form your opinion.


So I admit that I've only skimmed the PDF on statewatch.org that the site points to, but I didn't see the "massive filtering" bit. This reads like the DMCA seems to be practiced; can someone point out to me the specific page number of the PDF, or better the text within the document, which refers to the content filtering?

I'm not saying the DMCA is a good thing or a bad thing; I'm just trying to get calibrated to what is being proposed in the directive. Thanks for the help!


and they still call me paranoid ...


> follow in the footsteps of China regarding online censorship

This phrase makes the article seem overly dramatic. The proposed directive is all about copyright and not about censorship in the common sense. So, if I own the copyright (e.g. I wrote a blog post critizing the European Commission), this directive doesn't apply to me.


Copyright enforcement is censorship.


The web page is receiving the "hug of death" right now, and is having difficulty loading.

Pasting the content here in case it goes down (I did not include the in-paragraph hyperlinks though).

However, here is the leaked document they reference in the first sentence: http://www.statewatch.org/news/2017/aug/eu-council-copyright...

======================================

A Council of the European Union document leaked by Statewatch on 30 August reveals that during the summer months, that Estonia (current EU Presidency) has been pushing the other Member States to strengthen indiscriminate internet surveillance, and to follow in the footsteps of China regarding online censorship. Standing firmly behind its belief that filtering the uploads is the way to go, the Presidency has worked hard in order to make the proposal for the new copyright Directive even more harmful than the Commission’s original proposal, and pushing it further into the realms of illegality.

According to the leaked document, the text suggests two options for each of the two most controversial proposals: the so-called “link tax” or ancillary copyright and the upload filter. Regarding the upload filter, the text offers two alternatives:

* Option A maintains the Commission’s original proposal of having in place an upload filter which will be under the control of platforms and other companies that are hosting online content. Although it removes mentions to “content recognition technologies”, in reality, there is no way to “prevent the availability” (another expression which remains in the text) of certain content without scanning all the content first.

* Option B is, at best, a more extreme version of Option A. In fact, it seems so extreme that it almost makes the first option look like a reasonable compromise. This may, of course, be the “diplomatic” strategy. In this extreme option, the text attacks again the liability regime of the e-commerce Directive – which, bizarrely, would not be repealed, leaving us with two contradictory pieces of EU law but adds a “clarification” of what constitutes a “communication to the public”. This clarification establishes that platforms (and its users) would be liable for the copyright infringing content uploaded by its users.

The proposals in this leak highlight a very dangerous roadmap for the EU Member States, if they were to follow the Presidency’s lead. The consequences of these flawed proposals can only be prevented if civil society and EU citizens firmly raise their voices against having a censorship machine in the EU. We will be turning on our call tool at savethememe.net before each of the key votes in the European Parliament. Make use of the tool, and call your representatives to stop the #censorshipmachine!

No, you can’t enjoy the music you paid for, says EU Parliament Committee (05.07.2017) https://edri.org/no-you-cant-enjoy-the-music-you-paid-for-sa...

Proposed Copyright Directive – Commissioner confirms it is illegal (28.06.2017) https://edri.org/proposed-copyright-directive-commissioner-c...

EU Copyright Directive – privatised censorship and filtering of free speech (10.11.2016) https://edri.org/eu-copyright-directive-privatised-censorshi...

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

(Contribution by Diego Naranjo, EDRi)

======================================


There should be a huge backlash because of this. Make sure all people involved are fired and have no ability to govern anything public ever again.


Archive of page: https://archive.fo/ZaKft


The document in question is located at Statewatch: http://www.statewatch.org/news/2017/aug/eu-council-copyright...


That's horrendous... as it stands what are the odds this sees the light of day? I really hope this leak is a test, and it's just blown out of the water for now.


I guess today maybe no, but 10-15 years later and after one or few terrorists attacks with standard narrative, we will get in situation where without government id you could not write a comment, like today in china. This is not happening because of need security, but because of people ignorance and government greed to control everything.


Site can't be reached at the moment. Anybody care to provide a TL;DR?




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