We need to create more transparency surrounding the involvement of European Internet companies in online censorship.
Today a cross-party alliance of MEPs has presented proposals for legislation on A 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 human rights organizations Reporters Without Borders and Freedom House.
The European GOFA was initiated by Jules Maaten (ALDE) and is supported by Chistofer Fjellner (EPP), Edward McMillan-Scott (EPP), Paulo Casaca (PSE), Karin Riis Jørgensen (ALDE), Henrik Lax (ALDE), Eva Lichtenberger (Verts) and Frithjof Schmidt (Verts).
Jules Maaten (VVD, Netherlands): "Europe should promote freedom of speech as the basis of the internet, especially now that the Olympic Games are approaching. We need to create more transparency surrounding the involvement of European Internet companies in online censorship. Human rights also need to be protected online through legislation that contains sanctions."
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.
Henrik Lax (Svenska Folkpartiet, Finland): "It is time for the EU to step inside the new world and be a champion for human rights in all arenas. We need freedom of expression on the internet."
Karin Riis-Jørgensen (Venstre, Denmark): "I believe in the importance of this initiative because it is essential that Europe acts as a model when it comes to promoting human rights, democratization and the protection of dissidents. I endorse the EU-GOFA which will act as a guideline to European companies so they will not succumb to censorship."
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.