EFF Calls on Japan to Block Internet Censorship Proposal

While the controversy over Article 11 and 13 may be put on the backburner for now, Japan is apparently considering a similar proposal.

With Europe voting against article 11 and article 13, one might be tempted to believe that, outside of corporations doing their usual secretive lobbying, the censorship debate is basically on hiatus on the legislative front. Unfortunately, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Japan is currently considering a similar proposal.

In response to yet another site blocking proposal on the basis of alleged infringement, the organization is saying that Japan should follow what Europe has done and reject the proposal. From the EFF:

In response to Japan’s proposal, EFF explained that website blocking is not effective at the stated goal of protecting artists and their work. First, it can be easily circumvented. Second, it ends up capturing a lot of lawful expression. Blocking an entire website does not distinguish between legal and illegal content, punishing both equally. Blocking and filtering by governments has frequently been found to violate national and international principles of free expression [pdf].

EFF also shared the research leading Internet engineers did in response to a potential U.S. law that would have enabled website blocking. They said that website blocking would lead to network errors and security problems.

According to numerous studies, the best answer to the problem of online infringement is providing easy, lawful alternatives. Doing this also has the benefit of not penalizing legitimate expression the way blocking does.

Quite simply, website blocking doesn’t work, violates the right to free expression, and breaks the Internet. Japan shouldn’t go down this path but look to proven alternatives.

One question might be, why are corporations trying to push for a similar proposal in another country? This has been a longstanding strategy for corporate interests. Years ago, Cory Doctorow called actions similar to this policy laundering. If one legislative body votes down your proposal, then you go to another legislative branch and demand the same thing. Once someone says yes, then you are able to effectively turn it into law. This was used to describe the Broadcast Flag when the United States congress voted it down. The corporations then went to WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) and demanded that the broadcast flag be made law around the world.

What is the likely and well-established strategy for corporations on the International stage is to refer to their proposal as part of “an international standard”. The [target country] needs to implement our proposed law or be considered a country that is falling behind international norms.

One of the more severe examples of this is back in 2008. This was at the height of the three strikes law debate around the world. France, at the time, said Canada was considering their own three strikes law. They were using it as an argument that France should quickly pass their three strikes law or risk being left behind among other excuses. The problem was that Canada was not actually considering such a law at the time. In retrospect, the only possible conclusion as to why this was even said is that the suggestion about Canada was a fabrication.

If other countries are even considering laws like site blocking, that theoretically gives the corporations more credibility to push the laws onto other jurisdictions. That credibility is exacerbated when countries actually pass such a legislation. That’s because they are emboldened to call such a law “international norms” and that other countries should pass similar legislation regardless of how bad of an idea it is.

In light of all this, it is certainly understandable why the EFF is trying to stop other countries from adopting such laws in the first place. The more that can be done to make Internet censorship not an international norm, the better free speech is.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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