Archive | December, 2016

EU: Privatised censorship and filtering of free speech

The European Commission’s proposal on copyright attempts something very ambitious — two different measures that would restrict free speech, squeezed into a single article of a legislative proposal. (…)

1) Requires internet companies to install filtering technology to prevent the upload of content that has been “identified by rightsholders”. (…)

2) Seeks to make internet providers responsible for their users’ uploads. (…)

3) Gives internet users no meaningful protection from unfair deletion of their creations.

Medium: EU Copyright Directive — privatised censorship and filtering of free speech »


Fake news and the war over information

Everybody seems to be obsessed with the phenomenon of »fake news«.

But this is nothing new. If you have first-hand information, you will find that mainstream media are often wrong.

When I used to work in the European Parliament for the Swedish Pirate Party, we established the principle »right enough«. If a piece of news only had minor errors, we let go and focused on something more important. To try to correct everything journalists get wrong will be much too time-consuming.

A standard phone call from a (non-Brussels based) journalist normally started out with everything between five and 30 minutes of EU for dummies – where we had to explain who does what and how things actually work in this multinational bureaucracy. And in the end, it would to some extent end up incorrect anyway. You can only do so much.

Journalists are not rocket scientists, their insights and knowledge are normally limited, and they have a tight time frame to collect and analyze the facts. They will always get some things wrong.

And, of course, journalists and media organizations are biased – often without being aware of this fact themselves.

However, the context at the moment is not about mainstream media. It’s about the competition.

The political and media elite seems to have a strong aversion towards alternative media. Often new players don’t follow the same set of unwritten rules as journalists who are a part of the establishment. And this might be a good thing, as the latter often are more interested in cultivating their relations with people in power than reporting the actual news.

Of course, alternative media is sometimes filled with fake news, satire, propaganda, opinions, biased reporting… and often with real, important news and a qualified analysis that doesn’t make it into traditional media.

During the years 2009-14 in the European Parliament, we often used our blogs and social media networks to get the news out: Important news and first-hand information, that was not in any way covered in other media.

This was often met with irritation from the political elite and the bureaucracy – and with a scornful attitude from Big Media. There are always people who, because of various reasons, find frank reports about real matters disturbing.

Somehow, I fear that an elite of politicians, bureaucrats, journalists, and media organizations are taking advantage of the fact that there is a certain degree of fake news out there – to smear all new, alternative media.

They simply don’t want others to interfere.

Now we will see Facebook in cooperation with mainstream media start labeling links as »disputed«. Germany might go all Putin and fine those who publish »incorrect« information on the Internet. It is all quite Orwellian. And it opens up for abuse, censorship, and cover-ups.

The media – new or old – rarely gets everything right. Sometimes it gets most things wrong. Usually, it has some sort of agenda. Therefore, its’ analyses should always be questioned. To get a somewhat complete picture – we need to turn to more sources, many different media organizations, and an abundance of disparate voices – not fewer.

The entire discussion over »fake news« might just be tactics in the endless war of power over information, over the agenda. Obviously, the establishment is not amused with the new competition.



Politicians vs. human rights

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has – once again – ruled that data retention (storage of data on everybody’s phone calls, text messages, e-mails, Internet connections, mobile positions etc.) is in breach of fundamental human rights.

Nevertheless, politicians in several EU member states are trying their hardest to ignore the court. For them, Big Brotherism carries more weight than human and civil rights.

Let that sink in.

Politicians are more interested in controlling the people than defending its rights. They are more interested in treating ordinary people as potential criminals than upholding principles that are pivotal to a democratic society. They degrade citizens to subordinates, to be ruled over and supervised.

Never, ever expect politicians to defend civil rights. Their agenda is a very different one.



To enter the US, please enter your password

The U.S. government quietly began requesting that select foreign visitors provide their Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts upon arriving in the country, a move designed to spot potential terrorist threats that drew months of opposition from tech giants and privacy hawks alike.

Politico: U.S. government begins asking foreign travelers about social media »


In defence of encryption

There is a legitimate need to protect communications among individuals and between individuals and public and private organisations. Cryptography provides the electronic equivalent of letter cover, seal or rubber stamp and signature. In the light of terror attacks and organised crime, law enforcement and intelligence services have requested to create means to circumvent these protection measures. While their aims are legitimate, limiting the use of cryptographic tools will create vulnerabilities that can in turn be used by terrorists and criminals, and lower trust in electronic services, which will eventually damage industry and civil society in the EU.

Techdirt: European Information Security Advisory Says Mandating Encryption Backdoors Will Just Make Everything Worse »


European Court of Justice rejects data retention. Again.


The highest court in Europe today ruled that “general and indiscriminate” data retention directives contravene European Union law — dealing a significant blow to governments and organizations who have been pushing for stronger surveillance and data collection, and giving a boost to privacy advocates in the process.

ECJ press release (PDF) »

• Ars Technica: Investigatory Powers law setback: Blanket data slurp is illegal—top EU court »
• Techcrunch: EU court rejects data retention law, throwing cold water on UK’s ‘Snooper’s Charter’ »


War on fake news and hate speech to open Pandora’s box?

What is truth?

Facebook will start to flag content as »disputed«. Obvious fake news will be flagged by Facebook itself. And disputed »real« news content will be subject to third-party fact-checking with e.g. Snopes,, ABC News, the AP, and Politifact.

Are they to draw a line between »fake« and »wrong«? While »fake« in many cases might be assessed on reasonably objective grounds, »right« or »wrong« can be a very complicated and delicate matter.

At the same time, there is a proposal in Germany to fine Facebook € 500,000 for each identified piece of fake news or hate speech that is not removed within 24 hours.

To its nature, »hate speech« is a definition that lies very much in the eye of the beholder. Even where there is a legal definition, things might prove problematic – as such laws often give different groups different sets of »rights« (like protection from verbal or written abuse). This being a deviation from the principle that all people should be equal before the law.

These are extremely complex issues. No doubt these rules will lead to disputes over freedom of speech. Here also lies inherent conflicts between mainstream media and alternative media, between the political elite and popular opposition, and between conflicting sets of values. This might prove to be a modern version of Pandora’s box.

And – in a wider perspective – the very notion that there will be some sort of »Ministry of Truth« is deeply disturbing.


• Wired: Facebook Finally Gets Real About Fighting Fake News »
• Deutsche Welle: 500,000 euro fines for fake news on Facebook in Germany? »
• Quartz: Germany threatens to fine Facebook €500,000 for each fake news post »


Frosty relations between UK and German spy agencies

The Snowden revelations on US NSA spying in Germany still poison relations between UK (and US) intelligence community and their German counterparts.

The Daily Mail:

Relations between British and German spy chiefs have hit rock bottom because London says its counterparts in Berlin cannot be trusted to keep secrets. (…)

The source said: ‘It has now reached the point where there is virtual radio silence between the two biggest and most important intelligence services of the western world and the BND of Germany.

‘Germany is worried because it needs the umbrella protection of these agencies. It is virtually blind without it.’

This also concerns German requests for information demanded by the German Bundestag’s (parliaments) committee on mass surveillance:

Both the UK and America refused to send any of the requested files to Germany. Included among them was a demand for information about a 2013 operation handled by both countries – and in co-operation with the BND – which was, and remains, top secret but was known to involve a massive surveillance programme on suspected Islamic terrorists across Europe.

Britain fears a ‘big debate’ in the German parliament which would lay open secret sources and intelligence gathering techniques.

To complicate matters even more, the German Bundestag is searching for a »Wikileaks mole« – said to leak information from the said NSA investigative committee.

The Daily Mail » German spies ‘can’t be trusted’: Relations between the UK and Berlin intelligence chiefs hit after comments by London »

Berliner Morgenpost » Bundestagspolizei sucht Wikileaks-Maulwurf im Parlament »