Irish members support EU parliament vote for controversial ‘surveillance and control’ of internet users

‘Measure could bring down all internet activity, as we know it.’

Sligo News File

Irish MEPs are among a majority of EU parliament members who have voted to muzzle the internet.

Marian Harkin, MEP

Under a provision of the European Copyright Directive, the content of all internet users is now set to be monitored by advanced surveillance technology.

The move has been described as profoundly worrying with particular consequences for free speech.

Article 13 of the Directive will authorise the installation of filters to scan the content of messages and other communications before users can upload them online.

Some MEPs have claimed that the purpose of the controls is to guard against possible copyright violations in the interests of musicians and performers, but this is being dismissed as difficult to believe.

Experts in the industry have warned that the measure could bring down all internet activity, as we know it.

Some 70 of the top names of the internet, including the creator of the world wide web, Tim Berners-Lee contended in a letter to MEPs that adoption of article 13 would take “an unprecedented step towards 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.”

Matt Carthy, MEP….voted against EU internet control.

A huge concern of many is that the filternet to be employed under the directive will not be able to distinguish copyright infringements from legitimate commentary or criticism, making it increasingly problematic for those posting news to the internet.

The UN’s special rapporteur on freedom of expression, David Kaye has referred to the controls as “prepublication censorship”, with automatic filters being unable to detect fair comment, satire, criticism and parody.

It is feared that the filternet or censorship machine could be reprogrammed post-launch to prevent disclosure of issues the EU or member states politicians would wish to be kept from the public.

Despite the concerns, a majority of the parliament’s membership nevertheless yesterday voted in favour of the controversial article 13. They included Irish members Marian Harkin (Independent) and Fine Gael MEPs Brian Hayes, Mairead McGuinness, Sean Kelly and Deirdre Clune.

The following voted against the provision: Matt Carty and Liadh Ni Riada, both Sinn Fein and Independents Luke Ming Flanagan and Nessa Childers. Lynn Boylan, Sinn Fein, and Brian Crowley were recorded as ‘didn’t vote.’

The directive faces a final vote in January 2019.