We’ve been following the dramatic censorship news from Europe as of the last few weeks. So has the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America). In a blog posting, the MPAA celebrated the recent developments in Internet censorship as “good news” for consumers.
It’s been quite a month in censorship so far and the drama has yet to let up. At the end of last month, the UK high court ruled that ISPs must block Swedish BitTorrent website ThePirateBay. Barely two weeks later, reports surfaced that critics of internet censorship, among others who shouldn’t have been a target, found their own websites on ISP filtering blacklists. While the mere combination of the two stories should serve as a stinging indictment for supporters of censorship, the MPAA was busy applauding moves to censor the internet.
The MPAA titled their comments on the Netherlands with “More Good News for Creative Community and Consumers Coming from the Netherlands”
The MPAA post commented on how all ISPs in the Netherlands must block ThePirateBay. In addition, the post contains the following comments:
In a second legal case against the Dutch Pirate Party, the District Court of The Hague found the Dutch Pirate Party responsible of facilitating active circumvention of The Pirate Bay block and ordered it to stop offering services that allowed continued access to The Pirate Bay. The court states that this does not infringe upon free speech or the possibility of the Dutch Pirate Party to take part in the political discourse.
For those who are less familiar with this, after a court ruling that says that all ISPs in the Netherlands must block ThePirateBay, the Dutch arm of the Pirate Party set up proxies much like the UK pirate party to circumvent the censoring of the website. In response, the political party was taken to court and ordered to cease their anti-censorship tactics and remove all links to proxies. The Pirate Party of the Netherlands posted details of what happened including the following:
Specific Proxy stays censored
As mentioned, the ex parte injunction stands. That means our specific proxy hosted on tpb.piratenpartij.nl has to stay censored. We are also prohibited from placing any lists or links pointing to other ways of circumventing the block.
Generic proxy has to be censored
This is a slap in the face for the free internet and a novel judical decision. The judge decided to give the Netherlands another nudge on the sliding scale of censorship. More and more bits of the internet will have to be censored because they might be used to get access to ‘ infringing’ sites, until eventually most of the internet will be unreachable.
In point ii) of the verdict the Pirate Party is ordered ‘to cease & desist presenting direct links to other TPB dedicated proxies.’
This prohibition seems to cover the whole *.piratenpartij.nl domain. We have to comb every inch of our site, including our blog, to make sure we have no links to sites such as geenstijl.nl (Dutch news weblog) or rechtspraak.nl (Dutch law weblog). If we would want to try and risk €10.000, we could try and see what exactly is meant by ‘direct links’.
Point v) bids the Pirate Party ‘to cease & desist placing lists with internet addresses which can be used to circumvent the block of TPB, on her subdomain tpb.piratenpartij.nl.’
Apparently it is now forbidden to direct people to the Tor project’s download page, or even the Opera browser’s page.
As we’ve noted above (and what many others have noted) this is a dangerous slippery slope that could ultimately be open for abuse in the future. Trying to criminalize linking to tools that help to ensure free speech is an extremely dangerous game to play. These corporate entities are really playing with fire at this point because they are now pushing the Internet to develop something that is completely out of the corporate powers control. There are already onion websites in existence as well as darknets which are no doubt being constructed in response to all of this.
I personally hardly consider any of this good news for consumers. Is potentially splintering the internet thanks to ISP level filtering good news for consumers? Is disconnecting random individuals based on the flimsiest of accusations of copyright infringement thanks to a three strikes law good news for consumers? Is blocking random websites in the hopes of stopping copyright infringement all the while blocking political dissent, activists and small businesses good news for consumers? I don’t think so. These rounds of censorship is bad news for everyone and if it isn’t apparent now, just wait until these corporate entities start blocking website’s en-mass as that is no doubt what will be next.