Stop the censorship machine!
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, and
- 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.