MEPs fight Internet Censorship


Tomorrow Dutch MEP Jules Maaten will propose legislation, the European Global Online Freedom Act (EU GOFA), along the lines of the American Global Online Freedom Act (GOFA) in order to ensure the global freedom on the internet. The EU GOFA is supported by several MEPs and the human rights organizations Reporters Without Borders and Freedom House.

Jules Maaten: "Europe should promote freedom of speech as the basis of the internet. Especially now the Olympic Games are approaching. We need to create more transparency surrounding the involvement European Internet companies in online censorship. Human rights need also to be protected online through legislation that contains sanctions".

The European GOFA is supported by several cross party MEPs: Chistofer Fjellner (EPP), Edward McMillan-Scott (EPP), Paulo Casaca (PSE), Karin Riis Jorgensen (ALDE), Henrik Lax (ALDE), Eva Lichtenberger (Verts) and Frithjof Schmidt (Verts).

Freedom House on the EU GOFA
"European and U.S. efforts to introduce new human rights laws rarely if ever converge," said Daniel Calingaert, Freedom House deputy director of programs. "This new legislation, proposed by Mr. Maaten, is a vital step in a global effort to help technology companies resist pressure from despots and preserve Internet freedom."

More and more authoritarian states such as the People's Republic of China, Cuba, Iran, Belarus and North Korea censor the internet by blocking websites and filtering search results and intimidate internet users through 'cyber police' and obligatory registration. This involves not only American companies, but also European firms. Europe therefore needs to step up in the protection of online freedom and adopt a European Global Online Freedom act.

The 19 page legislative draft proposal contains provisions on:

* Minimum corporate standards for European Internet business operating in authoritarian states.
* Annual designation of Internet restricting countries.
* Establishment of the 'Office of Global Internet Freedom' (OGIF) as part of the European External Action Service.
* Statement that it is EU policy to promote global free speech on the internet and the global free flow of information.
* Designation of 20 million euros for the development and distribution of anti-censorship tools and services.
* Rules for European business with content-hosting services in order to create more transparency.
* Treatment of internet censorship as an international barrier to trade.
* Export controls and a human rights impact assessments for exports to internet restricting countries.

Full text of the EU GOFA