This website is an archive of the work of Marietje Schaake in the European Parliament between 2009 and 2019. Marietje can be reached at marietje.schaake@ep.europa.eu

Media: Rise of the net activist - New Europe

Marietje
Jennifer Baker, New Europe, 24.03.2013 Earlier this month thousands of digital civil liberties activists bombarded the European Parliament with emails protesting against a proposed law to ban on internet pornography. There was just one problem, such a law didn‘t exist. MEPs were so swamped with emails that a spam filter was initiated to block them. So how did this all start? An own- initiative report from the FEMM committee in the Parliament was drawn up asking the European Commission to consider legislation to eliminate gender stereotyping in the European Union. In this report reference was made to a 1997 call to ban all pornography in the media. But a report from a minor Parliamentary committee is a very long way from a proposed law. Pirate Party founder Rick Falkvinge nonetheless encouraged people to lobby their MEPs. He hailed it as a victory that the line calling for a ban on pornography was deleted. “We should be proud of ourselves as activists to having made noise on the issue. If we had not raised hell, the horrifying points 14 and 19 above would almost have been sure to pass in silence,” he said. Earlier this month thousands of digital civil liberties activists bombarded the European Parliament with emails protesting against a proposed law to ban on internet pornography. There was just one problem, such a law didn‘t exist. MEPs were so swamped with emails that a spam filter was initiated to block them. So how did this all start? An own- initiative report from the FEMM committee in the Parliament was drawn up asking the European Commission to consider legislation to eliminate gender stereotyping in the European Union. In this report reference was made to a 1997 call to ban all pornography in the media. But a report from a minor Parliamentary committee is a very long way from a proposed law. Pirate Party founder Rick Falkvinge nonetheless encouraged people to lobby their MEPs. He hailed it as a victory that the line calling for a ban on pornography was deleted. “We should be proud of ourselves as activists to having made noise on the issue. If we had not raised hell, the horrifying points 14 and 19 above would almost have been sure to pass in silence,” he said. In the last year we have seen digital civil liberties groups protesting against CETA (the Canada-EU trade agreement) and SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act) and even now are taking on the might of international tech giants in TAFTA (the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Area). Digital rights groups have been growing in power ever since the massive success of the anti-ACTA campaign last year. ACTA (the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) caused huge concern. Lines such as: “A party may … order an online service provider to disclose expeditiously to a right holder information sufficient to identify a subscriber whose account was allegedly used for infringement” could have made Internet Service Providers (ISPs) the unofficial policemen of the net. The proposed agreement also sought to place sanctions against any device or software that is marketed as a means of circumventing access controls such as encryption or scrambling that are designed to prevent copying. It also wanted legal measures against knowingly using such technology. This would have had implications for so-called dual-purpose technology, which also has totally legitimate applications.   Thousands of protesters took to the streets and ACTA was eventually blocked by the European Parliament. However it continued to raise zombie-like from the dead with the CETA deal initially including many paragraphs lifted directly from ACTA. These were all in turn shot down. Many of those protesters were angry with what they saw as the United States trying to impose its standards on Europe and the movement snowballed. With TAFTA currently under discussion, Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht, who also negotiated ACTA, will be anxious to avoid another embarrassment. But civil liberties groups have not yet won the war and distractions like the non-existent pornography ban may do more harm than good. With many extremely complex issues surrounding copyright, intellectual property and patents, ordinary citizens must feel there is a source of information they can trust. The pornography ban debacle may have undermined that. The Pirate Party risks becoming the boy who cried wolf. ACTA was certainly a big, nasty wolf that would have impinged on civil liberties, and there are doubtless more out there, but even die-hard activists can tire of pointless campaigning. Civil liberties campaigners have many allies in the European Parliament – Marietje Schaake, Christian Engstrom and Sophie In‘t Veld to name a few. However, with even Schaake saying that there will be “enough time for substance and talk of IP later”, campaigners would do well to heed her advice and choose their battles.