EU Commission Asks Public To Weigh In On Survey About Just How Much They Want The Internet To Be Censored

from the try-again? dept

A few years ago, when the EU Commission was first considering some really bad copyright policies designed to attack fundamental principles of how the internet worked, we pointed out the many, many problems with the EU Commission’s online survey (including the fact that their survey tool was literally broken, which eventually resulted in them expanding the time that the survey could be answered). It appears that one thing the EU Commission is good at doing is pushing silly one-sided online surveys that seem uniquely designed to get people to answer in a manner that blesses whatever awful policy the EU Commission has already decided to adopt.

The latest is, once again, an attempt to massively censor the internet. As we’ve discussed over the past few months, after burying the evidence that said piracy is a much smaller issue than people claim, and ignoring multiple people explaining the fundamental issues of mandatory content filters (i.e., automated censorship machines), the EU Commission appears to be hellbent on putting in place such filters. And it’s now pushing a survey to get you to support their plan.

Everything about the survey is designed to get you to be worried about the scourge of “illegal content” online (without any evidence that it’s a serious problem) and to demand that the EU force platforms to wave a magic wand and make it go away. Here’s the survey’s introduction:

The availability and proliferation of illegal content online remains an important public policy and security concern in the EU, notably with regards to the dissemination of terrorist content, as well as of illegal hate speech, child sexual abuse material, or illegal commercial practices and infringements of intellectual property rights, selling of illicit drugs, counterfeits or other illicit goods.

First off, see what they did there? They mixed in copyright infringement with… things that don’t belong in the same camp: “child sex abuse,” “illicit drugs” and “hate speech.” And that’s not even touching on how problematic the whole area of “banning hate speech” has become.

The Commission is collecting evidence on the effectiveness of measures and the scale of the problem, and will explore, by the end of 2018, further measures to improve the effectiveness of combating illegal content online.

In particular, through the present public consultation the Commission seeks to gather views from all relevant stakeholders. The questionnaire is targeted to the general public, hosting service providers such as online platforms, organisations reporting the presence of illegal content online, competent authorities and law enforcement bodies, and academia, civil societies and other organisations.

Collecting evidence? It appears what the Commission wants is a bunch of people to say “ooh, bad content,” and the Commission will use that to demand internet platforms wave their magic wands and make it go away. However, as we’ve noted over and over again, this backfires every single time. When you put the liability on platforms, they will massively over censor, stifling both free speech and innovation — while doing very, very little to stop “bad stuff” from happening online. Sex trafficking and drug dealing is already mostly underground, so demanding that platforms do more won’t have much of an impact either way. Hate speech is an amorphous ball of trouble that frequently just leads to censorship of people critical of government. And, honestly, haven’t we learned by now that merely censoring people doesn’t make them stop thinking whatever it is they’re thinking — it just makes them feel more persecuted.

Anyway, the survey starts out by asking you to designate who you are (and you can only pick one, even if more might apply):

It’s a… weird sort of list. It seems to imply that someone representing “victims” can’t also be representing “civil rights interests.” Really? It also seems to suggest that organizations who “identify and report allegedly illegal content online” are somehow automatically opposed to organizations that host content online…. which is odd.

Once you start filling out the survey, new questions pop up that seem designed to just hand the EU Commission a bunch of anecdotes about you running into “bad” stuff online, so that they can use those stories to insist that we need more censorship:

If you check off any of these a new box pops up, in which you can almost feel the Commission salivating, asking you to share “in what way this has affected you.” Basically “please give us scary anecdotes to push through our horrible idea.”

Next up: please tell us how scary the internet is so we can, again, justify censoring it:

See all that? It’s just “give us scary stories so we can scare people into allowing us to censor the internet.” Incredibly, even if you check off that you “never” came across any of these things, the survey still asks you to explain “how were you affected by the illegal activities.”

Then it asks who “has an important role to play in tackling illegal content online.”

Um. Notice something missing here? For each party, the choices are “Main role,” “important role,” “marginal role,” “I don’t know” and “No answer.” What’s missing? How about “no role”? Why do we expect most of these parties to have any role in trying to censor content? Again, shouldn’t the focus be on finding the person who did something illegal and bringing them to justice? Instead, this entire survey is 100% focused on just getting people to say platforms must “do more.” Indeed, this survey doesn’t let you say anything else.

Also: what strange framing. What does “tackling illegal content online” even mean? Hell, it’s still not even clear what “illegal content” really consists of or how serious any “problem” is, but already we need to know who needs to “tackle” it? But, really, this question is absurd for a different reason: it cleverly skips all the nuance behind this question. That is, in order to actually understand how one would “tackle illegal content” (whatever that means) you’d first need to understand quite a lot about what methods already work for dealing with content — and how that changes depending on the type of content. Or the type of platform. Or the type of user. It also would seem to require some knowledge of all the many, many, many, many ways that attempts to “tackle illegal content” (whatever that means) has failed miserably and tragically in the past — often in ways that expand the “bad” content or make it more difficult to track down the actual perpetrators.

And this is a larger point that the survey makers don’t seem to have considered at all: perhaps instead of focusing on the bad or illegal content… we should be focusing on those who created the illegal content. The underlying theme here is that we need to stop illegal content after it exists, rather than finding and stopping those creating this “illegal” content. It’s a strange approach that focuses on burying the “crime” by blaming the tools, rather than targeting the criminal. What a silly approach.

But if you’re just asking people who don’t follow this issue, of course they’re going to point their fingers at whoever hosts the content, because that’s always the easiest to point fingers at, without ever recognizing that doing so is asking for widespread censorship with little recourse. At this point it’s simply unconscionable that the EU Commission working on this effort doesn’t recognize the massive dangerous consequences of mandatory filters. Yet this question is clearly designed to get people to request filters, without ever giving anyone a chance to point out that filters don’t tend to work and often have massive speech-suppressing consequences.

There are then a few more questions, which all seem entirely focused on giving the EU Commission the cover they need to say that “the public has spoken” and “the public wants us to force platforms to censor speech.” The whole thing is a travesty — but at the very least, here’s a chance for you to explain (politely) why this effort is not just nonsense, but actively dangerous to free speech and innovation.

Oh, and just to make things even more ridiculous: in the process of writing this post, I took the time to fill out the whole survey. As I finished up I hit submit and this is what I got:

Apparently, if you don’t fill out the survey quick enough (and I did it pretty quickly), they’ll just dump all your results in the garbage. Nice work, guys. I’m so glad you’re the ones deciding how the internet will be regulated. I’m sure that’ll go over just great.

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Comments on “EU Commission Asks Public To Weigh In On Survey About Just How Much They Want The Internet To Be Censored”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Copyright is not censorship: it's protecting rights of Creators.

Every day for 20 years now, you’re here trying to find SOME way to get rid of copyright. You simply don’t want anyone to be able to work to produce valuable products and then get rewarded for the effort. Instead, you want every couch pumpkin in the world to have their work for FREE.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Copyright is not censorship: it's protecting rights of Creators.

Copyright was and is the tool by which traditional publishers seize control over a creators work, and via which the publishers get rich while most creators starve.

For most of human history creativity has been funded by either live performances and/or patronage. With the Internet, patronage supported by many small donations has become possible, and is used by many creators to fund their next work. With patronage, copyright is not necessary, so long as plagiarism can be dealt with, and the ability to create new works is a unique ability that people will pay to support.

Gary (profile) says:

Re: Copyright is not censorship: it's protecting rights of Creators.

Yes, I want Copyright to go on for 70 years past the life of the author so they can keep creating even after their death.
I want mandatory upload filters on my email and web in case I accidentally violate some dead person’s copyright.
I want douche-bag copyright proponents to stop explaining how we need to be spied on to protect the interests of a few wealthy corporations.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Copyright is not censorship: it's protecting rights of Creators.

How’s that Paul Hansmeier defense fund coming along bro?

His trial might be delayed to September, but there’s only so much stalling his counsel can do. My guess is he’s planning a quick exit to keep his copyright legacy intact after his buddy Steele threw himself under the bus…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

He’s said numerous times that he refuses to pay money for any of the streaming/cable services.

Yet he specifically comments on pieces of content here and on Twitter.

Ergo, he’s pirating them.

And btw, do you know how ridiculous it looks when you try to pretend that a hater of copyright like Mike Masnick doesn’t pirate? Well, it looks really ridiculous.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Not sure I agree with that premise. He has said that he wont pay for ALL the streaming services, not that he wont pay for ANY of the services, but I am willing to accept that I could be wrong, and address the conclusion.

Despite not paying for any services himself, he may have friends who do so, and legally watch content with those friends (I am talking that they are in the same physical area, watching the same physical device.

Then of course there are shows like Last Week Tonight that put up portions of their content for free viewing on YouTube or The Tonight Show, which puts up all of their content on Youtube.

I used to not have cable, and was unable to watch WWE programming. between WWE Youtube videos of segments, WWE Twitter Gifs, and several wrestling podcasts, I remained familiar with the content on offer, without priating content.

There are legal means to view content outside of personally purchasing access.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Your logic is faulty. There are other legal ways of knowing about and/or watching content, other than pirating, if you don’t watch cable and don’t pay for streaming services.

News regularly shows clips of content, trailers for shows and movies abound online along with officially posted selected clips, some content is available legally for free. He may just go over to a friend or relative’s house to get his fix. To say that because he doesn’t pay for something but still comments on it is proof of him being a pirate is ludicrous in the extreme.

There are tons of movies and tv shows I’ve never actually seen (legally or illegally) but I could tell you generally what they are about, who the main characters are, and various other tidbits, as well as comment on it because of news, reviews, clips, trailers, etc…

Regardless of that, I haven’t seen Mike say he doesn’t pay for ANY streaming services, including Netflix or Amazon Prime.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

He’s said numerous times that he refuses to pay money for any of the streaming/cable services.

Can you point to where I said that, because it’s not even remotely true. I have paid for streaming and cable and satellite services. I do currently pay for some streaming services and have for years. I also pay for individual piece of content at times. What I do NOT do is pirate content.

The fact that I advocate against copyright overreach and in favor of rethinking copyright does not mean that I must automatically refuse to live under the existing laws. Indeed, I take pride in doing everything possible to live by the existing laws to better understand just how silly many of them are.

Again, you have a strawman built up in your head about me, and it’s kind of hilarious how wrong it is.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

You’ve said you do not subscribe to Netflix or HBO, so which ones do you pay for?

Correct. Not because I don’t want to give them money (as you implied), but because I just don’t have enough time to watch the stuff that’s on there. I did pay for Amazon Prime and Hulu in the past, but stopped both when I realized I don’t use them enough. I figure someday, when I have more time, I’ll probably end up subscribing to Netflix. I just don’t have the time to watch Netflix content regularly.

Currently I pay for Spotify (and have since the day it launched in the US) and then regularly pay for non-subscription streaming services, including Redbox and Vudu (to rent movies). I also pay regularly for streaming educational videos. I also pay for MLB’s streaming service (and have since it launched).

So, yeah. The idea that I refuse to pay for streaming services is simply made up in your head. You took the fact that I once noted I don’t subscribe to two particular streaming services and falsely assumed that I refuse to subscribe to any and therefore I must pirate.

Let’s see if you’ll admit that you jumped to conclusions and was wrong. I doubt it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Indeed, trolls typically don’t make admissions or apologies. They just keep trolling.

It’s good to see that you waited for Spotify to become available, as many of the paid music subscription services around before that time were, to say the least, a bit dodgy (pay $40 now –> $4000 later).

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Mike Masnick- you pirate the HBO shows that you watch; should you really be criticizing here?

Huh? This is not even remotely true. I’m amused that you think so. Why would you say such a thing?

I find it hilarious that everyone insists I must pirate content. I don’t. What I find most amazing is that I even had an industry exec admit to me that HE pirates stuff, and when I explained that I don’t, he seemed shocked, saying that everyone does it. Sometimes I wonder if the reason the industry is so anti-piracy is because they’re the biggest pirates.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Because if they had to address the actual positions rather than the lies and strawman positions they attribute to you and others here they’d need to present a compelling argument as to why they are right and everyone else is wrong.

By instead framing it as a ‘well you only say that because you’re a criminal and stand to personally benefit from your crimes’ situation they attempt to dismiss anything everyone else might say out of hand as not worth consideration, and because they are just so clearly correct obviously anyone who disagrees with them must also be a criminal and not worthy of consideration.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

"Why would you say such a thing?

Maybe to troll you into responding?

Anyway, there seems to be a confusion between freeloader pirates (people who consume content without paying for it), competitive pirates ("scene" members who may or may not be consumers, but want to be the first to release it), and ideological pirates (people who have no personal interest in the content itself, are not trying to win prizes or impress anyone, but whose deep-seated hatred of Hollywood propels them to seek to hurt it in ways less destructive than blowing up buildings)

ECA (profile) says:

Funny feeling...

This reminds me about eh battle over PORN on the internet..

Then Facts interfered, and it was found that there ISNT THAT MUCH PORN on the net… 0.001% compared to all the data on the net, it was NOT significant..
There was SOME that got torn down, and went Deeper, because it was TYPES that was really against the law..

I dont think this is a fight to CONTROL the net..
We can throw facts at them and it Wont do any good, as it will ALWAYS come back over and over..

The internet is like a WHOLE NEW COUNTRY/WORLD, and someone wants to RESTRICT IT, and give it LAWS/RULES..
Its asif, someone doent like the idea of Random Chaos and Anarchy..

Anonymous Coward says:

referer censorship

It might be wise, as a general rule, not to give readers a direct link to sites seeking input of any kind. Needless to say, it’s not an uncommon practice for site admins to see where visitors are coming from, and if it’s some site they object to, then to selectively filter out that input. Techdirt is not Stormfront, of course, but the same kind of reaction could conceivably result.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Jaywalking, hit and run, same thing right?

As soon as they put child porn and ‘terroristic content’ alongside copyright infringement it became crystal clear what kind of answers they were looking for, and that they were intentionally trying to poison the well against ‘no’ answers.

After all clearly any person, group or platform that doesn’t want everything possible to be done to combat child porn is an irredeemable scoundrel who can be ignored at a minimum, and anything they say ignored. That they might not have taken the position the commission wanted because they don’t see everything that takes place as equal, and didn’t think that copyright infringement was even in the same category as the other crimes listed will of course just be brushed aside.

Anonymous Coward says:

i love this!!!!

Dear sub-humans… we seek to oppress you and control what you are allowed to say online. We would like your ideas how how to best oppress you and of course we only intend to use this oppression to pick on people you hate. Pay no mind to when we also use the rules to silence any negative things you have to say about us politicians and definitely pay no attention when we use these nifty new laws to make you into a criminal for prosecution if you say or do something we don’t like.

People are going to eat this shit up folks!

DifferentView says:

Questions are bait for other answers...

Reading the questions provided it appears to me that they are using the survey to help understand how people view the questions, how people have been conditioned to respond…

e.g. the questions are really about what bubble people are viewing the world from, with that they can extrapolate where they get the news from.

sumgai (profile) says:

The solution is easy.....

This proposal will draw one of two results, both desirable by individuals gifted with critical thinking (i.e. most Techdirt readers):

1) ISPs, CDNs, and possiblly platforms themselves all get together and agree on one thing – put up a page which proclaims that by edict of the EUC, the user is no longer permitted to see any website on the Internet, for fear of being harmed;

2) State that this page is all they are going to see, even though they have paid/are paying for Internet access;

3) State that the user will continue to pay for Internet access even though they can’t go beyond this page, due to contractual obligations;

4) State that the only method of regaining access to what used to be called The Internet is to write to their EU commissioners, threatening massive lawsuits of they don’t reverse course sehr schnell;

5) Stand back, hunker down, pass the popcorn, and watch the bedlam!

It’s not a certainty that the Commissioners will back down in the face of so much wrath, they might double-down in some fashion. But I’d be surprised if some smart attorney doesn’t get a court-ordered injunction preventing the ruling from taking effect until a full hearing takes place.

John85851 (profile) says:

Re: The solution is easy.....

This is a good idea in theory, but the reality is that everyone will complain to their ISP and the ISP should work with the EUC to unblock everything. People will say they’re paying the ISP’s for access and they’re not the ones who should have to write letters to commissioners.

For example, imagine if Congress said Comcast had to block The Pirate Bay. If you were a Comcast customer, would you write a letter to your Senator or would you complain that Comcast wasn’t letting, you, a paying customer, get the sites that you want to visit?

sumgai (profile) says:

Re: Re: The solution is easy.....

(Sorry, couldn’t log in for more than a day.)

When a complaint rises, I always go to the next level first, usually that’s friendly and gets the issue resolved. But if no, then I go right to the top – no wasting time going through the chain of command. In your scenario, it would not be Comcast’s fault that PB was blocked, the fault would reside with Congress. I needed only find that out from my "first stop", my ISP, being Comcast.

In your first paragraph, some people may call/write the ISP, but if the notice is crafted correctly, the reader/subscriber will get the hint right away – no need to contact the "first level", best to just go straight to the source of the problem.

And in the end, if the ISPs don’t lift the embargo, then one can always go to court to have the subscription/contract nullified. That will get some attention, and not the positive kind, I’m certain of that.

At some point, legislators are going to have to stop pretending that their butts can’t be bit, and realize that they have to craft legislation that causes the least harm to the most people. Businesses (ISPs) have a right to earn money, but they also have a duty to earn that money in a fair way. Legislation that hampers that duty is not good legislation.


The EU is going to have to learn that "doing it on a computer" does NOT mean that people (ISPs) can decrease their reaction time a thousand-fold or better. And to get that kind of reaction time, an ISP will have to hire literally half of the population to monitor the other half that’s currently uploading…. with each side being swapped out on a daily basis. Is this starting to sound a little familiar?

Peter Banks (profile) says:

Once again, American media-types pour scorn over an (albeit, likely failed attempt) at an EU attempt to ‘limit’ lousy content available to its over 500M citizens (slightly more than the US).

Politicos, globally, want the Internet to be censored to their ‘objective’ ideals. And, no doubt, censored to their Political beliefs. However, who or what IS the censor? Again, history has shown that censorship of any sort is dominated by failed political ideologies and those ‘democracies’ that wish to subjugate their subjects.

No amount of overt censorship will suppress the truth. It will always be outed in the end.

Wyrm (profile) says:

Biased by design

This kind of survey is flawed from the questions and the answers.

The idea is not so much "what do you think about this?" than it is "please give us reasons to censor you".

Biased questions, multiple choice answers that lack either neutral or downright opposite answers to what they expect, baseless restrictions on answers… not to mention the super-obvious mixed-bag of "crimes" that serve as the basis for the survey.

Anyone trying to answer will one way or another "support" censorship.



Ha, ha, ha!… Mike Masnick is “concerned” about the EU Commission’s hidden agenda to instigate censorship of the Net, while he openly allows clique Techdirters to “red flag” the comments of others!… whereby, the “dissented comments” of the flagged can be removed from clique Techdirters’ site view!
Mike Masnick!… you can’t be serious about going after the censorship agenda of the EU Commission, when you yourself are in the CENSORSHIP BUSINESS! To allow for “red flagging” on Techdirt, while slamming the EU Commission for their instigating of their own brand of flagging, is the pot calling the kettle black, and throwing stones while living in a GLASS TECHDIRT HOUSE! You should review the 1st Amendment, and get back to us on what you’ve come up with! And I can assure you, that the 1st Amendment is not synonymous with GATED CYBER COMMUNITIES!… which is what “red flagging” netizens within it, is really all about!

Mike Masnick (profile) says:


Ha, ha, ha!… Mike Masnick is "concerned" about the EU Commission’s hidden agenda to instigate censorship of the Net, while he openly allows clique Techdirters to "red flag" the comments of others!… whereby, the "dissented comments" of the flagged can be removed from clique Techdirters’ site view!

What is the hypocrisy here? Can you explain it, because I don’t see any. My concern is over governments telling platforms that they MUST filter sites in the way in which the government insists they must or face legal consequences.

That’s entirely different than platforms choosing to filter content the way they feel is proper for their community.

Do you not see the difference?


Re: Re: Re:2 How's that saying go...?

Hey goofy!… you can tell Mikey that the only difference between the EU’s stuff and Mikey’s stuff is SCALE! And also, Mikey’s “issue” is IGNORANCE!… i.e., “wilfull stupidity”!… in contrast to being simply STUPID!
When the Roman guards cast losts/ played dice for Christ’s robe, Jesus declared:… “Lord forgive them… for they know not what they do!” But Saint Paul declares, in Acts Chapter 17:…
30) In the past God overlooked such ignorance (the belief in statues of silver and gold as Gods!), but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31) For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” [NIV]
My suggestion to Mikey– and to his supporters!– is, REPENT!… either of one’s STUPIDITY, or one’s IGNORANCE! Oh, and pray tell me… Is my “issue” of STUPIDITY, or IGNORANCE?… and be wise in how you respond!

sumgai (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 How's that saying go...?

I’m sorry, but I mustashe you a question:

How is it that you do not comprehend the fact that MM has left your posts intact? He has not censored them, nor deleted them, nor has he responded in any manner but politely. Do you honestly believe that restrictions placed on our government by the Constitution (and Amendments) should also apply to private businesses, and even to private persons? Seriously?

As Mike has not stooped to your level and responded in kind to your trollish flame-baiting, I will take my cue from him and stop here. (Actually, yes – I’m afraid to engage you… I fear that you would beat me to a serious pulp with your vast experience.)



Re: Re: Re:4 How's that saying go...?

MM has left my posts in tact– so far!– goofy, as he would certainly be ashamed to do otherwise! The Constitution DOES APPLY to “private businesses”, and “private persons”, when such “private businesses” and “private persons” impact on the public’s PUBLIC BUSINESS!… like allowing a blind person his use of a “seeing-eye dog” within one’s private restaurant, or CYBERTECH RECEPTION AREA!… and etc., and etc., and etc., and etc., and etc.!… OH SEAR OF THE “CONSCIONABLE NET”! SERIOUSLY?
Stooped to my level?… don’t you mean, ADMITTED THE TRUTH? And YOUR “nettrollish flame-baiting” is what’s at issue here!… jerk!… not my need for a RIGHTEOUS DEBATE about censorship on the Net! And what you should “take”, is a self-inflicted “cue upside your head”! And what you’re afraid to engage in, is HONEST DEBATE, and CONSCIONABLE and RESPONSIBLE reflection on issues that matter! Buh bye!… and LET the “swing-door of conscience” hit you in the *ss on your way out!

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