Last week, information about the EU project ”Clean IT” came to light. This is a discussion group funded by the European Commission, which aims at getting the large internet service providers to create a ”clean” internet. The reason why they want to do this through ”voluntary” agreements with the internet service providers is that they realize that they would go against fundamental rights, such as the freedom of expression, if they tried to legislate along these lines. By making it a part of the standard terms of service they hope to be able to circumnavigate the European Convention on Human Rights and EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights.
The information became known to the general public (and to members of the European Parliament) through a leaked document (cached), marked with “CONFIDENTIAL / NOT FOR PUBLICATION / LIMITED DISTRIBUTION”. The Clean IT project has an official web page as well, but the information they have made public is significantly watered down compared to the leaked document.
Together with colleagues in the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament, we have now put half a dozen questions on the subject to the Commission:
On 21 September European Digital Rights published a document, funded by the Commission, written by the CleanIT project regarding the use of the internet for terrorist purposes (http://www.edri.org/cleanIT). The document raises serious concerns regarding the fundamental rights compatibility of the project’s activities and proposals, despite the assurances on the project’s website that the ”This project does not aim to restrict internet freedom, but we do have security concerns and want to limit the use of the internet for terrorist purposes” (http://www.cleanitproject.eu/faq/). The Commission is also funding projects such as the ”CEO Coalition” to fight child abuse material on the Internet.
1. Has the Commission assessed the fundamental rights compatibility of the CleanIT project before deciding to allocate funding and would it support an amendment to the internal security fund aiming at imposing such an obligation in the future?
2. Has the Commission raised the concerns by Edri with the project leaders and pointed them to the fundamental rights obligations the project has to comply with (in particular article 52 EU Charter, Art 8, 10 of the ECHR, Article 19 ICCPR)?
3. Why has the Commission funded a ”cooperation” project which appears to have no minimum obligations regarding levels of representativeness of the participants?
4. Why is the Commission funding Clean IT and the CEO Coalition to develop policy on notice and takedown (without any coordination between them), while the Commission’s own staff (DG Markt) are also developing policy on this subject?
5. Why is the Commission funding Clean IT and the CEO Coalition, independently and with no coordination, developing policy on reporting buttons, flagging systems, prevention of re-upload, etc.?
6. Has the Commission assessed the repercussions such projects will have on the ”No disconnect” strategy and in general on external policies in favour of strengthening freedoms on the internet?
The Commission now has three weeks to answer these questions. The answers should be provided by Swedish Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, who is responsible for the Commission’s actions in this area.
Read more: European Digital Rights EDRi