A glimpse of the European Commission's plans for ham-fisted, indiscriminate mass online censorship

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2017/09/28/robots-suck-at-copyright.html


What a shame that Europe doesn’t contain sub-regions of some sort, smaller administrative units in which each unit’s citizens would have a greater share in decision making so as to help avert dreadful decisions such as this.

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Is that intended to be sarcasm?

Because if so, that is kinda, sorta exactly how the EU works.

Well then perhaps this is not the sort of censorship Armageddon which the article portrays?

Again I’m not sure what your point is.

The article seeks to highlight the proposal being put forward and links to another article written by one of the people charged by citizens of one of those smaller administrative units you said should have a greater share in decision making to make those decisions and to scrutinise legislative proposals on their behalf.

So if she thinks it’s a terrible proposal, she is sort of supposed to say so. Loudly. And clearly.

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@doctorow: The MEP’s name, Julia Reda, is missing in the text (it probably was meant to to go at the start of last paragraph).

Anyway, thanks for pointing this out!

I can think of no reason why there must be one level of internet censorship - high, low, or nonexistent - for the entire continent.

The stock line seems to be ‘harmonization’. And, as much as I find most EU functions related to “Let’s try and avoid Ye Olde Custom of fighting a meatgrinder war for no real reaon every couple of generations, ok”? to be a very mixed bag; I can hardly pretend that similar theories don’t crop up in numerous other contexts.

The US equivalent is a little more direct(since, if the feds decide to regulate something, they can typically just preempt state regulations; rather than doing the ‘treaty gets written up, signatories agree to pass laws in their jurisdictions that give local legal weight to the items agreed upon in the treaty’; though there are occasional exceptions, like the drinking age, which is theoretically a matter of state law; but uniform because the feds provided the same very strong inducements to all states to legislate along the same lines); but the same arguments and logic are at work:
Sometimes it is the regulated party/industry that is actually pushing the idea, either because they think they can get a sweetheart deal at the EU/federal/WTO/etc. level compared to what they can get at the state or national level; sometimes because they don’t want the compliance hassle of a zillion different sets of legal standards across markets they operate in, sometimes because they don’t want to have to compete with they guys who enjoy enormously favorable legal conditions one state over.

In other cases the push is made on the grounds that whatever is being legislated against is too odious to be permitted even if it has local supporters(attempts to weed out tax shelters, discourage human rights abuses, etc. are popular; demands that The Pirate Menace be stamped out are often made using the same rhetoric; but don’t really enjoy the same moral clarity).

And, while the mechanism is open to some dire abuses of regulatory capture railroading bodies with at least a semblance of democratic mandate(eg. the ‘sneak some crazy dystopian stuff into a banal sounding trade agreement hammered out by a small handful of people who are minimally responsible to any electorate, then receive those gains in law when it is ratified’ strategy); it is hard to argue with it on the broad theoretical level, rather than in terms of specific abuses: Unless there is little or no cross-border activity(which is pretty much never the case; even if trade and migration are at a standstill, in a sea of razor wire, stack gasses go where they will), one can’t seriously deny that the legal environments of neighboring states are a matter of some domestic concern; or that a zillion indigenous packaging and labeling standards are going to be both more expensive and more accident prone than people just using GHS standards; and so on.

In large part, that’s really what makes these sorts of mechanisms so messy: they have enough plausible(possibly not reaching the level of ‘noble’; but many boring-but-good things don’t) uses for ends that aren’t just conspiracies and special interest rent-seeking that they are difficult to dismiss as a class on theoretical grounds(and, while the EU is more vulnerable to broad theoretical attacks; because it steps on the toes of a lot of incumbent nation states; most of the “Why should there be one standard for all?” arguments could easily be turned toward those nation states, and if those choose to devolve powers, their regional entities: Doesn’t mean that the argument is always as strong at any scale; the EU has had some notable trouble trying to make single policies work across areas with markedly different economic conditions; though the same might be said of nation states with economically distinct regions, or even towns with economically distinct neighborhoods); but a lot of the supra-national treaty/trade agreement/assorted harmonization target entities are practically caricatures of what a deeply undemocratic, nominally technocratic-with-pitiful-resistance-to-regulatory-capture, arrangement would look like.

In this case, the problem isn’t so much ‘one level’(I kind of like the fact that “Please see First amendment, Section 230 of Communications Decency Act; and Safe Harbor provisions of Digital Millenium Copyright Act; then shove off.” is the ‘one level of internet censorship’ that applies regardless of what some asshole sheriff or retrograde state legislature thinks of me and what I’m doing); but the fact that the EC appears to have never had a good idea about either copyrights or the internet in its entire existence; and seems to actively court feedback from among the worst possible sources to help them maintain their track record.

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