Freedom of speech is undoubtedly one of the most important features of any democratic society. Without it, knowledge could not be shared, injustices could not be called out, and the marketplace of ideas would be reduced to a single, miserable stall. Yet the state seems to need constant reminding of the importance of free expression; to them, it always seems to take second place.
The European Union, for example, sort of dodged a bullet recently as the European Parliament’s (EP) Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) voted against the controversial Article 13 of a directive on copyright infringement on November 20th.
If passed, this article would require internet companies to take measures to ensure that copyright agreements are observed and protected. In other words, the article would force companies and providers to filter out anything which could potentially breach copyright.
The LIBE vote against this article, however, in no way means we’re out of the woods yet; this vote was simply the last in a series of advisory votes before the Legal Affairs (JURI) committee takes the final vote on the directive this coming January.
Where’s the Problem?
You may wonder where the threat to free speech comes from in this directive. How do measures to protect against copyright infringement affect the rights of Europeans to express themselves?
The issue is that there is currently no effective, foolproof way to completely separatecopyright-infringing material from perfectly above-board speech. Oftentimes, online measures against “unacceptable” material such as copyright infringement, hate speech, disinformation, etc. winds up overzealously censoring legitimate speech.
A computer algorithm would have to be sophisticated enough to do the job of a judge.
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