Inside the EU Article 13; end of Internet as we Know it?


EU flag with meme


The Internet has become the pinnacle of the technological age, and a channel through which the free flow of information can be of use to all corners of the world. However, in the past couple of weeks, the European Union has decided to pursue legal precedents that would change the dynamic of the internet in a way that will dramatically alter the consumption of information for its Europeans constituents. The introduction of new copyright laws in the EU now, according to many European politicians, pose an existential threat to the free flow of information that the internet has always been able to provide. In short, Articles 11 and 13 of the new law aim to ensure that original content posted online by an author cannot be shared. It is being sold as an attempt to secure the user’s privacy, but actually implies something far more sinister.

Article 11 calls for a “link tax”, forcing internet companies to request permission and buy licenses from publishers to share their content. This means that popular websites such as Google may not even be able to show advertisements or content previews without being charged a fee. Amazingly, Article 11 is considered a mild reform, and yet it is already worse than the worst hysterias that were pushed by the media during the repeal process of Net Neutrality in the United States. The payment, or “tax” that is necessary to share information will unnecessarily stifle the internet’s ingenuity and creativity.

Article 13 seems to damage the free internet more severely. The statute essentially requires that websites maintain a database of copyrighted work to check and flag posts for removal. This provision directly attacks the internet’s natural proclivity to share helpful or entertaining work for the enjoyment of all users, and will certainly handicap popular social media sites. Opposing politicians are capitalizing upon the lack of popularity of this provision by condemning this as a “ban of memes”.

If Article 13 does its worst, the politicians will not have been wrong

The Independent reports that a letter signed by 169 “academics” argued that the new copyright rules would likely “impede the free flow of information that is of vital importance to democracy”. Other groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation argue that by “requiring Internet platforms to perform automatic filtering of all of the content that their users upload, Article 13 takes an unprecedented step toward the transformation of the internet from an open platform for sharing and innovation, into a tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users.”

If these new laws take effect, the European Union will have taken yet another step in its march toward petty authoritarianism. The interests of liberty are hopeful that European citizens will implore their leadership to stop these new regulations immediately.

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