Why We May Have to Cut Europe Off from the Internet

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UPDATE (July 5, 2018): In a rare move, the EU Parliament voted today to block this current copyright legislation, which opens it to amendments by the entire membership of Parliament, leading to a new vote this coming September. So the war against this horrific legislation is by no means over, but this is an important battle won for now.

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It’s no joke. It’s not hyperbole. If the European Union continues its current course, the rest of the world may well have to consider how to effectively “cut off” Europe from the rest of the Internet — to create an “Island Europe” in an Internet communications context. 

For those of us involved with the Net since its early origins, the specter of network fragmentation has long been an outcome that we’ve sorely hoped to avoid. But continuing EU actions could create an environment where mechanisms to tightly limit Europe’s interactions with the rest of the global Internet may be necessary — not imposed with pleasure, not with vindictiveness, but for the protection of free speech around the rest of the planet.

The EU will later this month be voting on a nightmarish copyright control scheme (“Article 13”) that would impose requirements for real-time “copyright filtering” of virtually all content uploaded to major and many minor Internet sites, with no protections against trolling, and the certainty of inappropriately blocking vast quantities of public domain and other materials, with no real protections against errors and no effective avenues for appeals. Please see:

“On June 20, an EU committee will vote on an apocalyptically stupid, internet-destroying copyright proposal that’ll censor everything from Tinder profiles to Wikipedia” (https://boingboing.net/2018/06/07/thanks-axel-voss.html).

Even if this specific horrific proposal is voted down, it’s important to review how we came to this juncture, as the EU has increasingly accelerated its program to become the Internet’s global censorship czar, in ways that even countries like China and Russia haven’t attempted to date.

As far back as 2012 and earlier, in “The ‘Right to Be Forgotten’: A Threat We Dare Not Forget” (https://lauren.vortex.com/archive/000938.html), I warned of the insidious nature of content censorship schemes flowing forth from Europe, and I’ve consistently warned that — like the proverbial camel’s nose under the tent — Europe would never be satisfied with any concessions offered by Internet firms. 

Time has borne out my predictions. In ensuing years, the EU has expanded its demands until now it considers itself in key respects to be the global arbiter of what should or should not be seen by Internet users around the world. 

Like other of civilization’s information control tyrants, a taste of censorship powers by the EU has inevitably led to utter censorship gluttony, and the sense that “we know best what those stupid little people should be allowed to see” is as old as human history, long predating modern communications systems.

European citizens are of course free to elect whatever sorts of governments that they choose. If that choice is for information control tyrants whose pleasure is to victimize their own citizens, so be it.

But if Europe continues to insist that its tyranny of censorship and information control must be honored by the rest of the world, then the rest of the world will be reluctantly forced to treat Europe as an Internet pariah, and use all possible technical means to isolate Europe in manners that best protect everyone else’s freedom of Internet speech. 

–Lauren– 

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