European Union commissioner for Information Society and Media, Viviane Reding, told the European Parliament this week that it’s time to consider passing a measure which would send a strong message to repressive regimes, in Europe and elsewhere, that Internet censorship is unacceptable:

…many authoritarian states block the access to Web sites, filter search engine results and intimidate Internet users. While it is the duty of every government to ensure that the media respect legitimate rules pursuing objectives of public interest such as the protection of minors, restriction of free speech must be exceptional and legitimate. The principle must be freedom of speech.

Reding says the act could be modeled on the proposed U.S. Global Online Freedom Act. But she’s not sure that would be the best solution for the European community. She prefers the idea of a European Code of Conduct governing agreements with other countries:

The European Union has become a major player on the world stage and is a major trade partner for many countries in the world. This implies that we conclude agreements, and that we have bilateral or multilateral meetings with our partners. I believe that every one of these opportunities must be used by the European Commission and by the EU Presidency to promote freedom of speech and fight against censorship. In addition, we must ensure that nothing in the agreements we negotiate with third countries, including its bilateral trade agreement, could be used to constrain or limit in any way the freedom of speech.

Reding also says she finds the idea of the EU funding research on anti-censorship software ‘quite interesting’.

Reding has merely put the issue into play. What the EU eventually does by way of an effort to combat Internet censorship, and when action may be taken, remains to be seen.

Leave a Reply