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Deutsch: Vom Aufstieg der Upload-Filter in Europa
In 2011, the European Union decided against the introduction of mandatory filtering in Europe, because a democratic analysis of the evidence showed that this was not necessary. In 2012, the European Union is working on a variety of projects to introduce “voluntary” upload filters and, because they would be introduced on a so-called “voluntary” basis, there will be no democratic analysis.
There are at least three different initiatives currently underway with this target. Firstly, Commissioner Kroes' “CEO Coalition”. As previously mentioned in the EDRi-gram, this initiative involves the Commission inviting big business to propose measures that will make the Internet a “safer place for children”. The fact that Facebook is in charge of privacy settings and Microsoft is in charge of “notice and takedown” appears to raise no concerns about the process being instrumentalised for business purposes.
Microsoft's history in “notice and takedown” is hardly exemplary. Recent cases showing that Microsoft, using Google's global application of US copyright law, has repeatedly demanded that Google removes links from its search results – links which remain available on Microsoft's own search engine. Microsoft, on the other hand, has also developed a product called “photoDNA,” used by Facebook UK as an upload filter to prevent known child abuse material being added to their site. What happens when somebody tries to do this? Nobody knows. What happens if a criminal tries to upload innocent parts of images as a way of filtering his/her own collection of illegal images to identify images unknown to the police? We don't know. How big is the risk that this could lead to incentives to creating new illegal images and new abuse? We don't know.
In the same vein, the “Safer Internet Programme 2012” announced that one of its strategies was to “develop a pilot test for trusted hash code / fingerprint series for preventing re-uploading of identified child sexual abuse material”. Remarkably, the Commission's proposal includes an explicit reference to PhotoDNA, Microsoft's product. The plan is also to extend beyond photographic material and cover videos.
Finally, the European Parliament is currently working on a non-legislative resolution on “the protection of minors in the digital world,” with Silvia Costa (S&D, Italy) as MEP in charge. Neither her draft report nor any of the amendments make a reference to filtering of any kind. However, the text, largely (as it seems reasonable to assume) donated by the child protection industry, is replete with references to “preventing” various online activities, without any discussions in the Parliament about filtering uploads to the Internet. The draft report also masterfully confuses illegal content with unspecified “unsuitable” content arguing that “measures to prevent illegal online content lead to differing approaches to the prevention of unsuitable conduct".
But one can't really oppose the use of such a far-reaching strategy for child protection. If it protects children, why ask questions about whether there will be unforeseen or even counter-productive consequences? Why ask questions about whether this is the most effective use of resources? Why ask for democratic oversight or evidence of usefulness? And, of course, nobody would be so cynical as to re-use the technology for any other purpose, would they?
Well, apart from terrorism, of course. The EU-funded “Clean IT” (not to be confused with the Iranian “clean Internet”) project is proposing the creation of a database of content “considered” illegal. “Why not try and create a database where internet companies can check it to see if it's known illegal material” asks the project manager? And if it protects society, why ask questions about whether there will be unforeseen or even counter-productive consequences? And all of the questions that are not asked about upload filters for child abuse material are not asked again in relation to terrorism.
Well, apart from copyright, of course. The European Commission's report from 2010 on the application of the IPR Enforcement Directive argues that, “given intermediaries' favourable position to contribute to the prevention and termination of online infringements, the Commission could explore how to involve them more closely.”
Safer Internet Programme
IPR Enforcement Directive
Draft European Parliament report on protection of minors (2.04.2012)
Clean IT project considers terrorist content database (6.06.2012)
Busted: Microsoft Harbors BitTorrent Pirates (27.05.2012)
Facebook & PhotoDNA (19.05.2011)
(Contribution by Joe McNamee - EDRi)