Now that most of last week's website hosting problems have been sorted out, with the new SpyBlog.org.uk domain name pointing to webspace hosted outside of the European Union, we can try to catch up with things we wanted to write about last week.
We received a paper snail mail letter from the European Commission in reply to our letter asking for clarification of comments made by Vice President of the European Commission Franco Frattini, back during the "Critical Alert" hype in August, regarding plans to "ban websites" etc.
Are there any mainstream media journalists or British politicians following up this story ?
Below is the first part of our letter to Franco Frattini, and the preliminary, general answer, by Jonathan Faull the Director General for Justice, Freedom and Security of the European Commission.
See subsequent blog postings for Questions and Answers numbers 1 to 17 :
Vice President Franco Frattini
copy via email to:
24th August 2006
I am writing to you to seek clarification of your remarks about "banning websites" at the press conference after the Informal Meeting of some EU Justice Ministers, at the Home Office in London, on the 16th August 2006.
Mention was made (perhaps by United Kingdom Home Secretary John Reid) of an EU policy objective to "make the internet a hostile place for terrorists". You talked of plans to "ban websites" which contain "bomb making instructions" or which "incite terrorism".
What exactly are you proposing ?
EUROPEAN COMMISSION DIRECTORATE -GENERAL, JUSTICE, FREEDOM AND SECURITY
Commission europeane, B-1049-Bruxelles / Europese Commissie, B-1049-Brussel - Belgium. Telephone (32-2) 299 11 11
Office: LX 46 06/105. Telephone direct line (32-2) 298 67 62. Fax: (32-2) 296 76 16
N.B. No email addresses or websites on this letter !
Brussesls, 28 Sep 2006
JLS D/1/CGS/vdb D(2006) 12264
Dear Mr [xxx]
I acknowledge receipt of your letter dated 24 August addressed to Vice-President Frattini.
Given the content of your letter, Vice-President asked me to answer your questions.
Please, find below the answer to your general preliminary as well as to the rest of the questions 1 to 17.
The Commission is currently reflecting on ways to better prevent inciting, aiding or abetting terrorist offences. Actually, according to Article 4 of the Framework Decision of 13 June 2002 on combating terrorism, incitement, aiding and abetting others to commit terrorist offences must be punishable in all Member States. Nevertheless, increasingly terrorist propaganda as well as bomb-making and other terrorist expertise, is being circulated through the media, and the internet in particular, in order to very efficiently reach large audiences. This is why the terrorist use of the internet is being examined to see if it should be included in the proposal for a modification of the Framework Decision foreseen in the work programme of the Commission for 2007. As a regulatory proposal included in the Commission's work programme, a formal impact assessment is required for the modification. The elaboration of the impact assessment guarantees that the potential impact of different policy options to tackle the issue are considered, including those of keeping the status-quo. In the case of the terrorist use of the internet, the Commission is certainly aware of the particular sensitiveness [sic] and the complexity of the subject. Indeed, we must take into consideration real or perceived inroads on freedom of speech and eventual costs entailed for Internet Service Providers, as well as the difficulties of enforcement stemming from the nature of the internet itself.
This is why the Commission intends to prepare a rigorous impact assessment concerning this proposal, preceded by an extensive stock-taking exercise.
"extensive stock-taking exercise." is not the same as a European Union wide Public Consultation, is it ?
Member States have already been addressed and 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) will soon be invited to make comments.
Will any actual members of the public be consulted ?
Only on the solid basis of a wide consultation and after a thorough analysis of the technical feasibility of the legislative options and their eventual impact, particularly on freedom of speech, will the Commission be in a position to decide whether it should draft a proposal on this issue and on what should be the exact content of the proposal.
Note that censorship of the media seems to is be under consideration along with censorship of mere web sites.