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ENDitorial: MEPs propose web blocking yet again

24 April, 2013

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: ENDitorial: Abgeordnete schlagen schon wieder einmal Netzsperren vor

It seems that some Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) simply think that Internet gambling & web blocking must be added to all relevant documents. There have been blocking proposals under discussion at least three times in three years, after the previous proposals had been overwhelmingly rejected. Now, for the second time in three years, the Parliament has decided to launch a report on online gambling, with web blocking as one of the (non-binding) options being considered.

Having spent six months in 2011 preparing a report on “online gambling in the Internal Market,” in response to a Commission Communication on online gambling, the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee (IMCO) of the European Parliament has decided to do another report on online gambling to respond to a new Commission Communication.

Ultimately, the main issue is that cross-border gambling services cause a reduction in tax receipts in countries with uncompetitive markets or national monopolies. Under the flimsy guise of “consumer protection” several EU member states seek to find ways of restricting competition, with the aim of forcing consumers to use local services (often with lower average payouts) instead of more efficient and compelling services elsewhere in Europe.

In 2011, there was extensive discussion about the blocking of “illegal” websites ("illegal" either due to not being registered and paying tax in the country doing the blocking or illegal in a more conventional sense). The result was a rather ham-fisted compromise, with nebulous meaning. Being non-legislative, this lack of meaning is unimportant, except to the Parliament's credibility

When the Commission launched its most recent Communication, it was as critical as diplomatic possible about blocking, bearing in mind that this is a policy currently in force in several EU Member States. The Commission explained that “blocking access to websites does not work as an isolated enforcement tool and can be easily circumvented” and that “website blocking can impact on legitimate businesses”.

This expert analysis of the European Commission, based on an extensive consultation, appears to be of no interest at all to certain Parliamentarians. Remarkably, in a Committee that is supposed to be devoted to supporting the European single market and protecting consumers, ill-informed MEPs are lining up to promote blocking – a policy which is destructive both for the European Single Market and consumer interests.

A group of Finnish MEPs from the EPP, S&D and Liberal groups (Sari Essayah, Eija-Riitta Korhola, Liisa Jaakonsaari and Hannu Takkula) tabled an amendment calling for measures such as the blacklisting and the “banning of illegal websites”. And here is a funny coincidence: Finland has a national gambling monopoly. Similar amendments were also tabled by Spanish and French parliamentarians.

Ignoring the logical incoherence of seeking to ban sites carrying out illegal activities (one has to wonder what Parliamentarians think the practical effect will be of banning something that is already illegal – maybe they think it will make them very illegal or maybe really, really illegal), it is remarkable that the MEPs who tabled the pro-blocking amendments have one thing in common – all of those who were present for the vote on the child exploitation Directive voted against mandatory web blocking for child abuse websites. Now, after the confirmation of the pointlessness of blocking by the European Commission, they have somehow come to the conclusion that, for economic purposes, it is a good idea.

Next step : IMCO will be voting on the draft report on 29-30 May 2013.

Commission Communication 2011

Parliament resolution 2011 P7-TA-2011-492

Commission Communication 2012

Draft Parliament report


(Contribution by Joe McNamee - EDRi)



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