This week started with a terrifying bang, when German and French negotiators announced a deal to revive the worst parts of the new EU Copyright Directive though a compromise on "Article 13," which requires copyright filters for any online service that allows the public to communicate.
The Franco-German "compromise" was truly awful: German politicians, worried about a backlash at home, had insisted on some cosmetic, useless exemptions for small businesses; French negotiators were unwilling to consider even these symbolic nods towards fairness and consideration for free speech, competition, and privacy.
The deal they brokered narrowed the proposed German exemptions to such a degree that they'd be virtually impossible to use, meaning that every EU-based forum for online communications would have to find millions and millions to pay for filters — and subject their users to arbitrary algorithmic censorship as well as censorship through deliberate abuse of the system — or go out of business.
Now that a few days have passed, European individuals, businesses, lobby groups and governments have weighed in on the proposal and everyone hates it.
That German uprising that German politicians feared? It's arrived, in force.Bitkom, representing more than 2600 German businesses, from startups to small and medium enterprises, has completely rejected the proposal, calling it "an attack on the freedom of expression";Eco, lobbying for more than 1,100 businesses across Europe, said that Germany had "become weak" in its negotiating position, putting "the smallest, small, and medium-sized companies" at risk;Deutschestartups tweeted their condemnation of the proposal, saying it put "stones in the way" of any European tech company hoping to grow;The Berlin think tank iRights.Lab called for an "immediate and total stop" to the negotiations, so alarmed were they by their direction; while C-Netz, another think tank that serves as a kind of arms-length expert body to Germany's mainstream political parties also denounced the deal. Read the rest
It's been a year and a half since the Norwegian Consumer Council commissioned a security audit of kids' "smart watches" that revealed that anyone on the internet could track the wearers, talk to them through their watches, and listen in on them; a year later, Pen Test Partners revealed that the watches were still leaking sensitive information, a situation that hadn't changed as of last week. Read the rest
Last month, it seemed like Europe had been saved from a dangerous attempt by corporate lobbyists to hijack copyright legislation in order to add a few points to their balance sheets, at the cost of a free, fair, open internet. Now, thanks to Germany's decision to turn its back on small European tech companies, the EU is poised once again to hand permanent control over Europe's internet to the United States’ Big Tech sector, snuffing out the small- and medium-sized enterprises of Europe.
The new European Directive on Copyright in the Single Market is a grab-bag of updates to EU-wide copyright rules, which have been frozen in time since their last refresh, in 2001. But the Directive been imperiled since last spring, when German MEP Axel Voss took over as rapporteur, and promptly revived two controversial, unworkable clauses.
To remain credible, the EU must reject this haggling between giant commercial interests—and put the public good first.
Voss's deadly pet ideas were, first, a proposal to let news sites decide who could link to them and to charge for the privilege (Article 11); and second, a proposal to require every platform for public communication to invent and deploy copyright filters that would prevent any user from infringing copyright, even momentarily, by suppressing any communications that appeared to contain a copyrighted work of any kind (Article 13).
The response was swift and decisive: more than a million Europeans promptly wrote to their MEPs to demand that the Directive be voted on clause-by-clause, allowing for Articles 11 and 13 to be amended. Read the rest
The EU's plan to censor the internet with algorithms that block anything that might be a copyright infringement has only days to go before it will be too late for a vote before the upcoming elections, and so far, progress has been stalled thanks to France's unwillingness to accept tiny, meaningless concessions that Germany feels they must win to retain political credibility. Read the rest
Katarina Barley, the German Minister of Justice, is set to receive this petition, now signed by more than 4.5 million Europeans, opposing the include of mandatory copyright filters (AKA Article 13) in the new EU Copyright Directive. The petition is the second largest in internet history (after this one) and looks set to surpass it. The Copyright Directive negotiations collapsed last week due to hard-liners in the French delegation, and there are persistent rumours that the German and French negotiators are still trying (and failing) to find common ground. So it's really important that Europeans sign this petition, to show the German ministers that they have the backing of the European people! Tell your friends! Read the rest
The nonprofit organization to which I belong recently put the personal data of around 410,000 people on the internet, connected to interactive street maps of where they lived. The data includes their full names, date and place of birth, known residential address, and often includes their professions and arrest records, sometimes even information about mental or physical handicaps. It also lists whether any of their grandparents were Jewish. Read the rest
The EU plan to mandate censoring filters for online speech to catch copyright infringement could be finalised as early as next week, and our best hope for halting it is to get the national governments of key EU member states to reject the proposal at that "trilogue" committee meeting. Read the rest
In many ways, Richard Grenell was the perfect pick for Trump's ambassador to Germany: a longtime Fox News pundit and John Bolton protege whose vanity and narcissism cause him to lash out constantly (and undiplomatically) at the nation he's meant to be charming, and whose thin-skinned insecurity sends him into spirals of misery and approval-seeking a the first hint of criticism. Read the rest
When top German officials had their emails and social media hacked and dumped, people wondered whether the attack was some kind of well-financed act of political extremism, given that the targets were so high-profile (even Chancellor Angela Merkel wasn't spared) and that politicians from the neofascist Alternative for Germany were passed over by the hacker. Read the rest
Hackers have published a big dump of private data related to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and hundreds of other of the country's politicians, in what is said to be the biggest data dump of its kind ever in Germany. Read the rest
It's a not-very-well-kept secret that elements of the libertarian right believe that democracy is incompatible with capitalism (tldr: if majorities get to vote, they'll vote to tax rich minorities and since rich people are in the minority they'll always lose that vote); and as this persuasive and fascinating lecture and Q&A with former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis (previously) shows, the feeling is mutual. Read the rest