Dutch Prosecutors Putting Pressure On Hosting Companies To Censor Content, Despite It Being Legal

from the that-slippery,-slippery-slope dept

GigaOm points our attention to complaints from some Dutch hosting companies that the government there is increasingly pressuring them to simply remove content claiming that it is "jihadist," but without any attempt to get a court order or to file criminal charges. We've seen this before, of course. The US government effectively forced Wikileaks to scramble for new hosting after pressure caused its hosting providers to pull the plug. Other services are pressured into removing certain types of content as well.

In the story linked above, the Dutch Hosting Provider Association (DHPA) claims that prosecutors are simply going to hosting companies and declaring, without any court order or underlying legal argument, that certain content is jihadist and should be removed. Feeling pressured and threatened, many hosts will simply remove that content. While the content may be incendiary, does that mean that there should be no due process at all? And the very real risk of overblocking doesn't seem to concern those demanding the content be taken down. The story notes one example of a video of a group of men around a campfire shooting guns -- but they note it's not entirely clear why they're shooting. And yet, they were told to take the video down.

It's easy to say "this content is dangerous, take it down," without recognizing the slippery slope of censorship this creates. No one is defending efforts to recruit people into jihadist groups, but leaping immediately to censorship without due process or any evidence of actual law breaking is not the way to protect a free and open society. It seems very much like the opposite.

Filed Under: censorship, court orders, free speech, hosting, jihad, netherlands, pressure
Companies: dhpa


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  1. icon
    Lisa Westveld (profile), 15 Oct 2014 @ 7:12am

    Not the cops...

    These are not the cops making those requests. The Dutch article mentions "opsporingsinstanties" which Google translates to law enforcement. It doesn't completely cover the meaning, though. There are other government agencies in the Netherlands that have their own inspectors that could do similar things. Our tax office, for example, has similar powers.
    For the Internet we have the "Nationaal Coördinator Terrorismebestrijding en Veiligheid" a.k.a. NCTV (National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security) who are not police officers. They're just government employees who seek out possible threats against the Netherlands or our allies.
    The NCTV is just warning companies that their sites have some content that they might not want to support and thus take down. Those companies should then check out the content before deleting it from their servers but unfortunately most of them don't want to spend time to check it out and delete it immediately.
    But basically, the hosting companies themselves are supposed to check if the complaint is justified or not. The NCTV just notifies them that the content might be unwelcome.

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