When it comes to China, the European Commission understands perfectly that Internet filters are about censorship and limiting freedom of expression. So why are they blind, deaf and dumb to it in the Telecoms Package?
My attention has just been drawn to comments by Martin Selmayr, European Commission press spokesman for DG Information Society, regarding the Chinese government's Green Dam initiative to censor the Internet in order to ‘protect the children'.
Mr Selmayr accused the Chinese of using the ruse of protecting children in order to limit freedom of expression via Internet filtering technology. What is really interesting is that when it comes to the EU Telecoms Package, Mr Selmayr's excellentunderstanding, not only of technology, but of the laws on freedom of expression, seems to fail him.
Mr Selmayr, a former lobbyist for the media and music company Bertelsmann , and a lawyer by training, has been attempting to deflect the debate on Amendment 138, which raises the issue of fundamental rights and the Internet. His recent attempt to suggest that it is matter purely for national law, was also a blatant attempt to get rid of the issue at EU level. At the same time, he wants the Telecoms Package to be carried through into law - a demand which ignores the provisions in the Telecoms Package to restrict users access to Internet services. These provisions will permit European governments to introduce measures exactly like the Chinese.
The Telecoms Package will also permit broadband providers to restrict access to particular Internet services at their own discretion.
Mr Selmayr told EU Observer that
"The aim of this internet filter, contrary to what Chinese authorities contend, is clearly to censor the internet and limit freedom of expression,"
"China's insistence that the Green Dam filter be installed in new computers proves once again that censorship takes place in this country," said Mr Selmayr.
"China cannot compete with other powers of the world only at the economic level without paying attention to freedom of expression,"
The Green Dam uses deep packet inspection technology to censor the Internet with the public aim of preventing children from accessing pornographic websites, but it could also enable the Chinese authorities to monitor the web surfing of ordinary citizens, and block access to political websites.
I also came across some previous comments by Martin Selmayr on the topic of freedom of speech. The comments were in respect of a European Commission promotional video on YouTube, which apparently contained a number of controversial sex scenes. Mr Selmayr defended them on grounds of freedom of expression.
The report on the BBC website says, attributing the comments to Martin Selmayr: "Fuming at what he called "quasi-religious bashing of the very important cultural diversity we have in the European Union", he said the lovemaking clips were excerpts from award-winning films, and that the commission was proud of the EU's rich cinematic heritage." ...
"The European Union is not a bible belt, we believe in freedom of expression and artistic creativity," he added."
The question here is whether freedom of expression is purely the domain of the big film companies or is it the right of all European citizens? The Telecoms Package Third Reading, anticipated to begin in September, will provide the forum for the EU to answer that question.
Additional information See my previous article entitled : Reding: don't involve EU in fundamental rights for Mr Selmayr's previous comments on Amendment 138 - unfortunately the video link no longer works, and the EU appears to have removed it.
This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial-Share Alike 2.5 UK:England and Wales License. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/ It may be used for non-commercial purposes only, and the author's name should be attributed. The correct attribution for this article is: Monica Horten (2009) EU and Net censorhsip: do as I say, not as I do , http://www.iptegrity.com 16 July 2009.