EU Parliament group rejects mandatory Web blocking

It's a qualified victory for digital civil liberties as web blocking plans are watered down

The European Parliament's civil liberties committee has voted unanimously to reject mandatory European Union-wide blocking of child pornography websites.

The European Commission had originally wanted to force member states to block illegal content and encouraged national authorities to use Internet service providers "to develop codes of conduct and guidelines for blocking access to such Internet pages." This provoked concern among many civil liberties groups that were worried that member states might misuse the power to block websites and that legitimate content could be blocked in error.

The new text of the draft law on online child pornography approved by the civil liberties committee Tuesday removes the obligation on member states to block content, but says they "may" do so subject to certain safeguards. However, a new addition to the text is the warning that any blocking measures must comply with the European Convention on Human Rights, specifically the rights to communication and privacy.

"This implies a far stronger level of control than currently exists in several E.U. countries that at the moment have entirely lawless blocking, such as Sweden and Denmark," explained Joe McNamee of digital rights group EDRi.

The aim of the compromise text is to protect the rights of Internet users who want to access legitimate online content, but may have their access restricted by overly draconian blocking measures. Under the new text, blocking must be limited to what is "necessary and proportionate" and users must be informed of the reason for any restriction.

However, the method of blocking is still loosely defined. The explanatory text accompanying the legal proposal says that blocking can be "based on various types of public action, such as legislative, non-legislative, judicial or other," but does not explain what these actions might be.

The whole European Parliament will vote on the text in September.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

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Jennifer Baker

IDG News Service
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