Gilles de Kerchove, the European Union’s counter-terrorism coordinator, has publicly stated that he wishes for the European super-state to be able to remove not just websites that promote illegal content, but also those which he calls “undesirable.”
The statement from de Kerchove, who was recently speaking on the topic of how to curtail the threat of terrorist activity online, has alerted freedom of speech campaigners and those concerned with net neutrality to the overbearing nature of the European Union (EU), which has for decades whittled powers away from national governments across Europe.
Now it seems the EU wants the power to block websites it arbitrarily decides are “undesirable.” Setting out the action being taken by the EU, de Kerchove said, “The Commissioner for Home Affairs will set up a forum to discuss with the big players – Google, Facebook, Twitter – how we can improve the way one removes from the internet the illegal and, if not illegal, undesirable websites.”
The UK-based freedom of speech campaigners of Big Brother Watch wrote earlier this week:
Freedom of speech, and of the press, are essential parts of a free and democratic society. It should not be in the gift of politicians to decide what we read or who can write it and absolutely not on the basis of what some may consider undesirable. If content is to be blocked, it should be a decision taken by a court of law and only when a clear criminal test has been met establishing the content is illegal.
Big Brother Watch also pointed to an EU report from 2013 which discussed how “Media councils should have real enforcement powers, such as the imposition of fines, orders for printed or broadcast apologies, or removal of journalistic status.”
The worryingly Orwellian phraseology goes even further in the EU publication, ironically entitled A Free and Pluralistic Media to Sustain European Democracy. The report states, “The national media councils should follow a set of European-wide standards and be monitored by the Commission to ensure that they comply with European values.”
Precisely what “European values” are, and who would be the arbiter of such things, is left intentionally vague.
Some have argued that the most recent move by de Kerchove is simply an attempt to help curtail the prevalence of jihadist propaganda on the internet, while civil liberties campaigners worry that politicians rarely limit their security-related powers to targeting foreign criminals or would-be terrorists.