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Freedom of speech

Criticism gone from EP report on safer internet plan

26 February, 2003

In a remarkable change of heart, rapporteur Bill Newton Dunn removed all criticism from his draft report on the Safer Internet Action Plan (EU Document Number COD/2002/0071). In stead of the original recommendation to discontinue the program because of its complete in-effectiveness, Mr. Newton Dunn (British Liberal) now pleads for an extension of the program.

The change is the outcome of a series of so-called trilogue meetings, high-level, closed-door meetings of Council and Commission representatives as well as EP rapporteurs and shadow rapporteurs. Newton Dunn subdued completely to the will of the Council. Not only did he withdraw all of his critical original amendments, he even asked the Council for formulas he then tabled as last-minute amendments in his own name. The result: not a single amendment was adopted in the EP Internal Affairs committee that had not been approved by the Council before. It is very likely that the outcome in the EP Plenary, which will vote on March 10, will look likewise.

E-commerce directive transposition raises serious privacy and free speech concerns in France

12 February, 2003

France has started the process of implementing the European Directive on Electronic Commerce. The draft text of the Digital Economy Law ("Loi relative à l'économie numérique" or LEN in French) deals with ISP liability, electronic contracts and unsolicited commercial emails, cryptography, cybercrime, and satellite systems. Among them, the most controversial provisions are those concerning cryptography, cybercrime and ISP liability.


Providers of cryptography services should provide upon request decryption keys to authorised agents named by the Prime Minister. The penalty for not complying with this obligation is a 2 years jail sentence and a fine of EUR 30,000. When a crime or offence is suspected, the public prosecutor or a judge may ask any expert to decrypt data. If the incurred penalty exceeds a 2 years prison sentence, military staff may be asked for help. In that case, the decryption method and process would be kept secret, making it very difficult for defence lawyers to question the outcome. The last provision states that anyone having access to decryption keys should provide them. The keys should be provided upon judicial request when cryptography is used for commission, preparation, or facilitation of a suspected crime or offence. The penalty is very high again: a jail sentence of 3 years and a fine of EUR 45,000.

Critical draft report on Safer Internet Plan

12 February, 2003

The EU Safer Internet Action Plan, than ran from 1999 to 2002, did not deliver very impressive results, to put it mildly. Rapporteur Bill Newton Dunn (UK Liberal Democrat) from the Parliamentary Committee on Citizen’s Freedoms and Rights, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) wrote a slashing draft report about the request to extend the plan for another 2 years. The original plan had 4 objectives:

  • Create a European network of childporn hotlines
  • Develop European filtering and rating systems
  • Encourage awareness actions
  • Organise an international conference about the topic

Analysing the achievements, Newton Dunn states that nobody seems to know the telephone numbers of the supposed network of hotlines in 10 member states. Secondly, in stead of validating existing filtering software and carry out security tests against counter-attacks, the express wish of the EP, the Commission financed 13 seemingly vague and uncoordinated filtering projects. Awareness has not been promoted very well either. ‘Projects such as the SUI project resulted in the distribution of 60.000 copies of a brochure on safer Internet use to teachers (...).’ Finally, no conference was organised, ‘and now, in the rapporteur’s opinion, the money would be better spent with the candidate countries.’

Finnish companies oppose law to censor internet

12 February, 2003

A coalition of Finnish telecom and media companies has joined the fight against proposed government legislation to make owners of message boards liable for all content, similar to print media. Additionally, Finnish government wants access to historical data to trace anonymous postings. The law therefore requires publishers and ISPs website to log practically all Internet traffic data for a period of 3 months. In a message delivered to parliament on 5 February, the companies say the law could have a chilling effect on commercial communication.

Electronic Frontier Foundation has acted against the new law from the beginning, warning it will stifle freedom of expression on the Internet.

Press release Finnish companies (06.02.2003)

Internet censorship in Switzerland

12 February, 2003

<- Update 25.10 2009 - if you are looking for Switzerland Network Testing Tool, you would find it on EFF website ->

In Switzerland, internet censorship is gaining ground. 2 recent events demonstrate this development.

Last December, the examining magistrate of the canton Vaud issued a command to many Swiss internet service providers (ISPs), to block access to 3 websites. The websites, all hosted in the USA, contain strong criticism of a.o. the Swiss courts and are prosecuted for defamation.

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