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RE: EP Common Position on combating illegal and harmful content
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- Subject: RE: EP Common Position on combating illegal and harmful content
- From: Rigo Wenning <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Fri, 16 Oct 1998 11:19:35 +0100
- Comment: This message comes from the debate mailing list.
- Sender: email@example.com
Dieses Statement von Felipe Rodriguez wollte Euch einfach
nicht vorenthalten. Es trifft auch meine Bedenken hinsichtlich
Selbstkontrolle. Das freiwillig lasse ich hier einmal weg.
Ein Hauptargument dagegen ist für mich in einem deutschen
Kontext, dass wir im privaten Bereich nur einen mittelbaren
Einfluß der Grundrechte haben. Damit wird der Schutz der
Meinungsfreiheit durch Art. 5 GG via Selbstkontrolle
Marc Rotenberg hat es kürzer ausgedrückt:
We gonna self-regulate YOU!
>Date: Mon, 5 Oct 1998 17:55:39 +0200
>From: "Felipe Rodriquez" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>Subject: RE: EP Common Position on combating illegal and harmful content
>> --cassidy sehgal-kolbet wrote:
>> I am looking for a few comments from GILC members in EU countries to
>> this proposal. Clearly, this is troubling and I would like to have a
>> piece on it in the GILC activist alert that is slated to get out today.
>Here is a text about this topic I wrote for the (spring?) CPSR newsletter:
>Is ISP self-regulation voluntary ?
>National borders do not seem to exist on the Internet, because one is so
easily transferred from one country to another. With the click of a button
we enter a different legal jurisdiction, where different rules and
regulations apply. An expression that may be illegal in one country may be
legal in another and will therefore be available for anyone with access to
the Internet. It is often difficult, and sometimes impossible, for
governments to regulate the Internet. Attempts to do so can undermine
democratic values, and create harmful precedents. Regulation of the
Internet by a single state, or small group of countries, is useless,
because the network transcends country and region.
>There are various attempts around the world to regulate the Internet. Some
countries in Asia and the Middle East try to install national filters that
prevent their citizens access to certain information. Other countries, like
China, implement licensing systems for ISP's. And a lot of countries are
still considering their regulatory options. In Europe there is the concept
of self-regulation by industry, that is an important part of a recent
action-plan that was published by the European Commission, that is the part
of the European government that creates European policy. By promoting
self-regulation the European authorities share part of their power to
commerce in an attempt to maintain order and stability on the Internet.
There already are various self-regulating initiatives in Europe, like
Internet hotlines, content labeling and rating initiatives and industry
codes of conduct. All of these initiatives came into being after pressure
from the authorities on the Internet providers.
>I've seen how self-regulation is being applied in Europe, and cannot
approve of it. Providers are forced to self-regulate by the authorities
under threat of prosecution or confiscation of their equipment. The concept
of self-regulation means that industry must control and sometimes prevent
the expressions of its customers. Self-regulation can therefore easily lead
to restriction of established rights, because commerce has very different
interests than the civil society at large. Customers that have dubious
expressions suddenly become a risk for the industry and as such must be
self-regulated, or in other words removed, otherwise the provider may be
confronted with prosecution or other problems.
>In the Netherlands there is a self-regulating initiative called the
'hotline against child-pornography on the Internet'. The hotline came into
existence after extensive media reports about child-pornography on the
Internet, and the consequent pressure from parliament and the authorities
to do something this phenomenon. When this hotline receives a report about
the publication of child-pornography by a Dutch citizen Internet, it sends
a warning to the author of this content. If the author does not remove the
child-pornographic picture after receiving the warning, the issue is
forwarded to the police. The authorities deal with it from there on, and
may start prosecution.
>I've been involved in this hotline myself, as it was my brainchild. The
Dutch hotline was developed as a self-regulatory measure with strict
limitations, it is never supposed to take over the job of the authorities,
and the hotline does never remove content or revoke access to the Internet.
It also does not ask internet-providers to remove content or deny access to
individuals, and leaves such activities to the authorities.
>The hotline was founded by a diverse group of individuals, concerned about
limitations that would be imposed on freedom of speech if something where
not done to contain the problem of child-pornography on Internet. Care was
taken not to have only representatives of Industry in the initiative, but
also users that have no commercial interests in the Internet. After one
year of operations the hotline has written a report which concluded that
its impact on the amount of child-pornography on the Internet was very
limited, and that enforcement of the law is a matter for the authorities,
even if that sometimes is a difficult task. The Law in the Netherlands
forbids the distribution of pictures portraying minors with the intention
of arousing sexual stimulation. The hotline recommended a more active
approach by the police to enforce this law, because in most areas of the
Internet the impact of self-regulation proved very limited.
>In the United Kingdom there is a self-regulatory initiative called the
Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), initiated by the UK Internet providers.
These providers where told by the London Metropolitan Police that if they
would not provide a legally clean, or smut free, Internet, then their
offices would be raided, and their equipment taken away. This would
effectively put a provider out of business, therefore the UK providers had
little choice but to start a self-regulating initiative. Another result of
this pressure from the Metropolitan Police was that a number of newsgroups
where made unavailable in the UK, because the content within these groups
is supposed to be of an obscene nature.
>The IWF is a providers-only organization. A provider can buy itself into
the board of the IWF by paying a substantial amount of money. The IWF
operates a hotline that was inspired by the Dutch hotline, but the English
hotline goes much further. The IWF receives reports about illegal content,
and then forwards these reports to the provider where it originated. This
provider then legally knows about the content, and is forced to remove it
from his servers. Whereas the Dutch hotline stimulated the removal of
content by the author himself, or otherwise forwards the complaint to the
authorities to ensure that proper legal procedures are respected.
>The IWF is also actively promoting the implementation if labeling and
filtering technology on the Internet like the Platform for Internet Content
Selection (PICS). It has setup an international coalition called INCORE, to
promote the use of PICS filtering on the Internet. PICS is presented as a
pro-choice technology that enables users to control the content they see on
their desktop, it is said to empower parents who want to protect their
children. But PICS can just as easily be used by the Internet-provider or
by governments to implement censorship on a broader scale. Countries like
China, Singapore and Dubai would surely embrace PICS technology to perfect
the censor-systems they have already installed for the Internet.
>Not only are PICS filters unable to protect children; they merely create
the illusion of security. There are a lot of resources on the Internet that
cannot be labeled and filtered with PICS. Chat-boxes are an easy example;
the content in a chat-box is fluid and ever changing. Less than 1% of the
content on the Internet has a PICS label. If one would turn on PICS filters
today, the screen is black almost all of the time, as hardly any
information has been labeled yet, access to this information is denied.
>Another European self-regulation initiative is the German Internet Content
Task Force (ICTF). This organization is infamous for its blockade of a
Dutch website, www.xs4all.nl. On this website there was a document from an
activist group that is illegal in Germany. The German authorities contacted
the ICTF and told them to prevent access to this illegal document,
otherwise providers would have to face prosecution. The ICTF then
orchestrated a block of the entire website, because it had no means to
block access to a single resource on that server. The radical document was
copied around the world by activists, and was available on more than 50
location within a matter of days. ICTF ended the blockade after four weeks,
and concluded that it had been a useless venture. Providers that did not
want to block the website said they felt very intimidated by the German
>Questionable forms of Internet self-regulation can beyond simply removing
or censoring material. When a Basque website promoting terrorist group ETA
appeared on the Internet, a top officer from the Spanish police encouraged
people to send a mailbomb to the website hosting ETA information.
Newspapers in Spain also encouraged their readers to do the same. Sending a
mailbomb to Internet servers equals
>sabotage, it is a denial of service attack with the intention of disabling
the service by overloading it. The Spanish authorities were trying to
prevent an illegal publication by promoting illegal actions
>by their own citizens. The initial effect of the mailbomb was the removal
of the website. But shortly after the removal from this location the Basque
content started to appear on several other internet-sites around the world.
Another attempt to censor information proved to be counterproductive and
merely recreate the information elsewhere.
>Government imposes self-regulation on the market, because it often does
not have the expertise to deal with the Internet itself. Self-regulation is
not necessary, existing laws are able to deal with most of the problems
that appear on the Internet. It is the responsibility of our governments to
try to enforce these laws, instead of forcing commerce to take over this
task by means of self-regulation. By shifting the power of regulation to
the market, the very basic democratic values that our societies have been
built on are ignored and bypassed, resulting in a privatized system of
control and enforcement on the Internet.
> Felipe Rodriquez