A Dark Day for Online Freedoms: Members of the European Parliament Vote for Generalization of Automated Filtering

Press Release. Thursday, September 13, 2018.

Wednesday, September 12, was a dark day for online freedoms and for all those laboring on a daily basis for the defense and promotion of a free, open, neutral and decentralized Internet. The European Parliament voted 438 to 226 for generalization of the automated filtering of uploads. This is a serious blow, but April will keep on campaigning in the lead up to the upcoming trialogue negotiations, and to the final vote in Parliament, which should occur at the beginning of 2019.

Despite an incredible grassroot movement and an ever increasing number of detailed position statements coming from a great variety of backgrounds — cultural, technical, legal, NGO and official institutions1 – Members of the European Parliament chose one of the most dangerous of all the versions of Article 13 that were eventually tabled, the one from rapporteur Axel Voss. Since a roll/call vote was requested, we have a record of how each person voted (see page 34 of the document).

In July 2018, MEPs had rejected the mandate given to the rapporteur by the JURI (Legal Affairs) Committee; a few cosmetic changes notwithstanding, the text that was voted on September 12th was, however, essentially unchanged. For instance, the opportunity to specify that automated content blocking is to be avoided will strike anyone as odd, since the entire provision is based on this principle. This leaves us wondering how anyone could have been satisfied with such a ludicrous specification.

Unfortunatly, many of the French MEPs supported this seriously restrictive provision, with the notable exceptions of Members of Parliament D'Ornano, Montel and Phillipot of the EFDD group, Omarjee and Vergiat of the GUE/NGL group, and Delli, Durand, Jadot, Joly and Rivasi of the Green group, who also voted for the amendments to delete article 13 (which were rejected by 517 votes to 169). April thanks them for this important position statement. We give special mention to the members of the EFDD group and to M. Durand, who voted for the full rejection of the directive proposal itself; a rejection that would, at last, allow for a real substantive debate on this issue. The remaining aforementioned MEP's chose to abstain from voting. On the other hand, April regretfully notes that all members of the French delegations of the EPP, S&D and ENF groups supported these propositions, which obviously pave the way to Internet censorship.

As a consolation prize – small indeed, but not negligible – amendments for the unconditional exclusion of free software development platforms from this absurd provision were adopted. Incidentally, April recently called on the French governement to put its words into action during the upcoming trialogue negotiations, since the European Union Council apparently thinks only “not-for-profit” code sharing platforms should benefit from the exception.

April will continue to act on this issue, as well as on the more global one of the fight against generalized automated filtering of uploads, and it calls on everyone sharing its values to do the same. MEPs will have to vote on the final text that will come out of the trialogue negotiations between Parliament, Council and Commission. This is their last chance of rising to the challenge.