On March 7, 2013, a large number of citizens tried to email members of the European Parliament to express their views on the ”Report on eliminating gender stereotypes in the EU”. The report had attracted public attention on the internet and in media, since it called for ”a ban on all forms of pornography in the media”.
One of the bloggers who wrote about this was the Pirate Party’s founder Rick Falkvinge, who asked citizens to email members of the European Parliament to let their views be heard, and set up a simple internet service to make it easy to find the addresses to the 754 MEPs (Members of the European Parliament).
Around noon on March 7, approximately 350 emails from concerned citizens had arrived, but then they suddenly stopped appearing.
This turned out to be because the parliament’s IT support department had taken the decision to block these emails by classifying them as spam, after some MEPs had requested this.
I was very upset when I found this out, and wrote a letter to the President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz to complain. In the letter, I wrote:
I find it completely unacceptable that the parliament’s IT support department deliberately blocks certain emails from genuine citizens wishing to contact their elected representatives, and I find it even more unacceptable that this was done at the request of some individual MEPs (whose names and political groups I do not know).
No MEP should have the power of shutting off communication between other MEPs and their constituents using the parliament’s technical staff and infrastructure.
I look forward to your confirmation that you share this view, and that you will take immediate and appropriate action to both solve the present situation and make sure it is not repeated in the future.
I sent the letter to President Schulz on March 12. Today, almost a month later, I finally received an answer from President Schulz in the form of a paper letter which was delivered today (but dated March 28). You can read the President’s answer as a pdf here.
In his answer, the President of the European Parliament defends the blocking of the emails from citizens to MEPs as spam, and does not in any way indicate that he will do anything to prevent this from happening again.
I find this completely unacceptable.
Yes, it is quite true that 850 European citizens emailing each of the 754 Members of the European Parliament will result in several hundred thousand emails being sent. This is just straight-forward arithmetic.
But that is no justification for the administration of the European Parliament to take the decision to censor those citizens by just silently discarding the emails that citizens send, so that they do not reach the elected members.
In my opinion, citizens who take an active part in the democratic process and make their voices heard are an asset to the political system, not a problem that needs to be addressed by spam filters. It is a sad state of affairs when the President of the European Parliament disagrees.
Update: Andrew Norton writes: EU [Parliament] President and IT Staff Don’t Understand Democracy, Maths, or Truth