The fourth and final part of of Questions to and Answers from the European Commission, regarding the apparent policy announcement by Vice President Franco Frattini in London, following the alleged "liquid explosives on airliners" plot arrests in August.
Questions and Answers 10 to 17 (of 17):
10) Who will be held responsible for any "collateral damage" caused by the "takedown" or "censorship" of a shared webserver, with many innocent customers' websites, and one or two ones which are subject to "censorship" ? This is a notorious problem of "censorware", which often cannot distinguish between a sub-domain or the fact that there could be thousands of different websites sharing a particular webserver's IP address.
This was recently illustrated in India, by the wholesale censorship of millions of innocent blog sites on US based blog services like *.blogspot.com, following an attempted clampdown on a few extremist web blogs after the recent Mumbai train bomb attacks.
As we are still considering legislative and non legislative options, we cannot speak about a specific option, as the notice and takedown procedure you mention, as the chosen solution. Nevertheless, since the technical issue you mention is connected to the respect of the right to freedom of expression, we can refer to our answer under question 3 and add that the in-depth impact assessment study we intend to carry out will certainly consider the "collateral damage" you refer to as an element of utmost importance.
11) What financial compensation are you planning to offer to victims of such law enforcement "collateral damage" ?
As stated above, since we are still considering legislative and non legislative options, we cannot speak about a specific option, as the notice and takedown procedure to which you refer, as the chosen solution. In this sense, it seems premature to speak about the compensation of eventual victims resulting from which [sic] remains as an option to be assessed.
12) What are the proposed mechanisms for legal appeals against such "censorship" or "takedown" orders or notices ?
See answer to question 7 above. We are sorry but the early stage of the Commission's work makes it impossible to provide for a more detailed answer.
13) What about non-web traffic and services, e.g. peer to peer filesharing, or email ? How will these be affected ?
We must insist on the commitment of the European Union with the respect of human rigts (see our preliminary general answer plus the answer to question 3). In this particular case, we should refer to the Guidelines on human rights and the fight against terrorism, adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 11 July 2002 at the 804th meeting of the Ministers' Deputies of the Council of Europe. Indeed, the said guidelines refer specifically to "measures that interfere with privacy" and state that such measures must be provided by law and that it must be possible to challenge the lawfullness of such measures before a court. We totally agree with the line taken by the Council of Europe in the said guidelines.
See the text of theHuman Rights and the fight against terrorism
The Council of Europe is not the same as the European Union. It now has 46 Member States
14) Will "web blocking" be instigated and authorised by European Union police and intelligence agencies like SitCen, Europol and Eurojust, or will a new agency be required ?
As we are still considering legislative and non legislative options, we definitely cannot speak about the filtering option you refer to as the chosen solution. We can nevertheless state that Europol will play a coordination role in Member States' efforts in the fight against terrorist use of the internet.
15) How much will this "web blocking" policy cost to implement ?
As stated above, since we are still considering legislative and non legislative options, we definitely cannot speak about the filtering option you refer to as the chosen solution. We are sorry but the early stage of the Commission's work makes it impossible to provide for a more detailed answer.
16) Who, exactly, will be expected to pay for it ? Local Governments or will it be funded from central European Union budgets ?
See answer to question 15 above.
17) Will there be a formal public consultation on your proposals, not just with "law enforcement stakeholders" or with large vested interest telecomms and internet companies, but with the millions of innocent European Union citizens, who could be adversely affected through "collateral damage" and censorship of the internet ?
As stated as preliminary and general answer above, the Commission is perfectly aware of the sensitiveness [sic] of this subject and this is why it intends to carry out an extensive stock-taking exercise including not only Member States (that have already been addressed) but also the industry (media and internet service providers) as well as civil society (NGOs dealing with human rights issues, national Human Rights bodies, Bar and Lawyers' associations) which will soon be questioned.
Jonathan Faull is the Director General for Justice, Freedom and Security at the European Commission. He was appointed in 2003, and was previously "Director general of DG Press and Commission spokesperson" i.e. a spin doctor.
It is tempting to dismiss the answers to our questions, as a veritable tornado of hand flapping and media spin, showing that there has not yet been any significant consultation with anyone, about the proposed censorship of alleged terrorist websites throughout the European Union.
Perhaps, just perhaps, some of our relevant questions will make it on to the agendas of the various "reflection" and "stock-taking" committees and working groups.
Are you one of the European Union elite who has already been, or is soon about to be "consulted" on this issue of "terrorist" website censorship ?
If not, then why not ?