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Those Who Sacrifice Liberty For Security Deserve Neither (Benjamin Franklin)

EU: imitating the Great Chinese Wall for internet?

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Brussels, 04 July 2008 — Amendments to the European Telecommunications directive being rushed through the European Parliament propose a “Soviet internet” where software publishers and internet service providers watch traffic and data for Hollywood. Software and services that run on the internet would have to ask for permission of the regulators.

Some amendments to the European Telecommunications directive allow administrative authorities in each Member State to define which are the authorised software applications for the internet. Parts of the directive should be implemented by the member states through requiring specific “technical features” in electronic communications networks. Live-analysis and filtering compose a pre-requisite for a “Soviet style” censorship environment.

Several committees suggested massive changes to an over complex Commission proposal. The committee process was hijacked by vested interests. All amendments of at times questionable quality lack a legal impact analysis and sufficient examination. Immature propositions risk to create an administrative burden and stifle internet innovation. Overloaded and confused by hundreds of amendments the lobby sets MEPs under pressure to agree on a poor compromise before the summer break. All amendments need more thoughtful review so that a mature text may be presented to the plenary and MEPs fully understand what they cast their vote on in the committee.

Benjamin Henrion, FFII representative in Brussels, rings the alarm bell: “Tomorrow, popular software applications like Skype or even Firefox might be declared illegal in Europe if they are not certified by an administrative authority. This is compromising the whole open development of the internet as we know it today. Once the Soviet Union required the registration of all typewriters and printing devices with the authorities.

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