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One promise needed for internet freedom

Europe has given us the tools to prevent three strikes. It's the perfect time to finish the job
Written by Leader , Contributor

It is hard to read the Internet Freedom Provision, Article 1(3)a of the new EU telecoms framework directive, in the Churchillian tone befitting its lofty aims. Phrases such as "appropriate, proportionate and necessary" and "adequate procedural safeguards in conformity" do not ring in the ear or stir the soul.

Which is a shame. We'd prefer something along the lines of: "Democracy and freedom flowing from unfettered access to knowledge and the means of expression, the right of access shall be considered as fundamental as the rights of literacy and protection under law, and shall be protected by law in the same way."

Article 1(3)a can be taken as saying that. It can also be taken as saying that if your government says it's OK, you can be thrown off the internet until you get to court and can prove that it wasn't. And with big business spending time, money and influence telling the government what OK means, this could mean a lot of damage to a lot of people in the meantime.

As we know from what has passed for debates about cannabis and file-sharing, hard facts and expert opinion count for little against demotic propaganda and entrenched interests. The most effective way to force a recalcitrant government to do the right thing is to make it promise to do so beforehand — in writing. Of course, that's still no guarantee, but it's the closest we can get.

We are coming up to election season. Manifestos are being written, positions are being taken, high horses are being saddled up. As a crab is most vulnerable when it moults its shell, politicians are most at our mercy when they're renewing their mandate.

There is much to be gained for any party that can lay claim to supporting fundamental human rights, especially when those are in accordance with the mood of the nation. Any politico worth their salt knows the value of finding a saintly cause after being dragged through the mud, and at the moment, they're more in the mire than the most estuarine of crabs.

May we suggest in this case: a clear declaration that people will not be thrown offline for non-criminal acts, because their basic human rights and the proper running of a democratic society are more valuable than that.

The framework exists, the intent is clear, the people are ready. All we ask is that ambiguity is removed and the promise made. The Churchillian tone is optional: the determination is not.


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