by Christopher Nichols
February 21, 2019
from ForeignPolicyJournal Website
The Hemicycle of the European Parliament
in Strasbourg during a plenary session in 2014
(Diliff/CC BY-SA 3.0)
has a number of restrictions in place
that make it challenging to access
certain types of content
websites on the Internet.
When someone mentions Internet censorship, many people think about China and its GreatFirewall.
However, Europe also has
a number of restrictions in place that make it challenging to access
certain types of content or entire websites on the Internet.
Companies that operate these websites have to keep a copyrighted works database and prevent users from posting anything from that database. However, these databases are crowd-sourced which makes it easy for malicious actors to exploit.
Article 13 does not require users
to submit proof that a work is copyrighted before putting it in the
copyrighted works database.
They may choose to block
the EU-based user from seeing those works or prevent them from
The long-term impact on Article 13 is difficult to determine, but it does take away from a free and open internet.
It has not yet been voted on, so hopefully changes will be made before it potentially passes.
potentially have access to EU citizen data must follow a number of
strict rules about the way they collect, use and store it. While
this regulation is very helpful for protecting the privacy and data
of individuals, it also has an unfortunate side effect.
When someone visits one of these websites from an EU-based IP, they get a message that the company is not allowing EU traffic due to the GDPR restrictions.
One reason that companies
may choose to do this is because of the technical requirements that
may be too costly for them to implement.
While this regulation is not designed to censor the Internet, it does make it difficult for EU citizens to access resources they were previously able to.
One idea that's being passed around Europe currently is a directive for online platforms to remove content that's deemed “terrorist” within an hour of being informed of it.
would be the ones determining whether content falls under the
terrorist heading, which opens up a lot of potential for abuse.
Since many protests use social media platforms to organize, this can have a widespread impact on peaceful protests and other actions that aren't supported by the people in charge.
While someone can appeal the decision, the content still gets removed in the meantime.
Putting control over acceptable speech in government hands is a concerning move and will lead to significant Internet censorship.
For example, if a streaming video service only has a license that covers US rights for a movie, then they can't offer it to users outside of that country.
If they fail to comply
with the licensing terms, then they may lose the ability to show
that content or end up damaging their relationship with the company
that produced the show.
Region-locked media can be frustrating to deal with, and acts as another form of Internet censorship in Europe.
A VPN makes a user's web traffic appear like it's coming from a different country. It does this by routing the person's traffic through a server in that country before connecting to the Internet-based resource.
VPN services are most
useful for getting around region-locked content, which is
commonplace on YouTube, Netflix and other streaming video providers.
Many VPN services do not log user activities, so if the authorities subpoena the company, they won't get any useful information about anybody. Sometimes all a person needs is an email address to start using a VPN.
Read more about how to get around
Internet users are the
ones paying the price with these restrictions, but VPNs can
alleviate some problems with region-locking and restricted content.