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 MEP Malcolm Harbour has attacked the OpenNet coalition of user NGOs and ISPs on the European Parliament website. The  rapporteur for the Universal Services and Users Rights directive, accuses a group of knowledgable users of 'pure fantasy.' His article  appears to be part of  a series of moves to close down all opposition to the Telecoms Package plenary vote today in the European Parliament.  


 The OpenNet coalition, which runs the Blackout Europe site has been angered by an attack from Malcolm Harbour which  accuses them of ‘pure fantasy' in respect of their interpretation of the Telecoms Package amendments. He names the Blackout Europe website on  a ‘major  news ‘ page posted on the European Parliament's website, where he says he  is "astonished" to see their text  and claims that "the Telecoms Package has never been anything to do with restrictions on the Internet".  


The Opennet coalition has responded with a robust rebuttal of Mr Harbour's ‘fantasy' allegation and suggest that, on the contrary,  his claims are misinforming the European public. It  exposes  the real issues  behind his claims by citing several examples where he himself has been quoted discussing restrictions to Internet services (see link below). The coaltion consists of NGOs from almost all member states, including Italy's

Scambio Etico,  France's La Quadrature du Net, Germany's AK Vorrat, the UK's Open Rights Group, EDRi, EBLIDA, and 200 Internet Service Providers. It suggests that Mr Harbour is out of order to  assume that they are mis-informed about the Telecoms Package or its implications.


If the EU is serious about  talking  to users, and run a consultation with them, as is suggested by Mrs Trautmann, then insulting them  in such a manner  would not seem to be the best way to go about it.  And one could question whether this is an appropriate use of the European Parliament's own website, especially so close to an election.


The BlackoutEurope Facebook group  now has close to 20,000 members - it has grown to this size since the beginning of April. If anything can indicate strength of feeling among users, then this must demonstrate it. It is one of a number of different groups which are now springing up to campaign against the Telecoms Package, but it is also by far, the largest.


Tthe OpenNet coalition rebuttal of Malcolm Harbour's allegations can be viewed on the BlackoutEurope website. 

Mr Harbour's article can be viewed on the European Parliament website.  It is interesting to see the comments that people have left - it does not look like the agree with him.


It seems to me strangely Orwellian to think that you can tell people something and they will believe it as the truth. Especially when they are capable of reading the law for themselves. The documentary evidence is there to demonstrate that this is  giving disinformation to European citizens to defend decisions taken behind closed doors.  in the back-rooms of Brussels.


 Today is  the Telecoms Package second reading plenary vote . It can be viewed on a webacast here.As I have watched developments over the past few days, it seems to me that the European Parliament is trying to close down this vote, forcing MEPs to vote for a bad law on the orders of the Council of Ministers, and the UK and French governments. All opposition is being silenced and MEPs are frightened even of voting in favour of the amendments which they previously voted for, namely Amendments 138 and 166. Mr Harbour's article is indicative of this, as is his email attack on Swedish Internet-defender MEP Christofer Fjellner, who appears to have been pressured to follow the line of his party group, the EPP.  Fjellner spoke in  the Telecoms Package debate in the European Parliament yesterday, but his words were confused and it seemed to me that he was flustered and harassed, like a man who has been agonising with his conscience over other pressures. 


MEPs today  have to make the choice whether they stand up for users rights and civil liberties, by voting for the original Amendments 138 and 166, and the Citizens Rights Amendments , or whether they vote for Internet blocking, and toe the Harbour /Trautmann line.  Their choice will als indicate that whether or not the European Parliament really is a democratic institution, capable of wielding real power on behalf of European citizens, or whether it is  a lapdog to the powerful governments in the Council - namely the UK, France and Germany.


This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial-Share Alike 2.5 UK:England and Wales License. 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) Users angered by Harbour's 'fantasy' claims,,6 May 2009. 





Iptegrity in brief is the website of Dr Monica Horten. I’ve been analysing analysing digital policy since 2008. Way back then, I identified how issues around rights can influence Internet policy, and that has been a thread throughout all of my research. I hold a PhD in EU Communications Policy from the University of Westminster (2010), and a Post-graduate diploma in marketing.   I’ve served as an independent expert on the Council of Europe  Committee on Internet Freedoms, and was involved in a capacity building project in Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine. I am currently (from June 2022)  Policy Manager - Freedom of Expression, with the Open Rights Group. For more, see About Iptegrity is made available free of charge for  non-commercial use, Please link-back & attribute Monica Horten. Thank you for respecting this.

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