Council of Europe Sips at the Censorship Kool-Aid

Milton Mueller — a reliable source — writes, Council of Europe Works to Criminalize Political Expression:

The Council of Europe is pushing to extend the Cybercrime Convention to impose criminal sanctions on what it considers to be unacceptable forms of political or religious expression. The Cybercrime Convention was originally negotiated to respond to transnational problems such as theft of data, breaking into computers, computer-based financial fraud and the like. But now the Council is engaged in bulk unsolicited emails to promote the idea that web site content that is insulting or xenophobic is a cybercrime of the same order.

The bulk emails were sent to promote an April 1st meeting in Strasbourg, where the Council will promote its “Additional Protocol concerning the criminalisation of acts of a racist and xenophobic nature committed through computer systems.” Note the less than honest language: what the Council is targeting are not harmful “acts” of racism or xeonophobia, but the distribution of “written material, ideas or theories” which “insult publicly, through a computer system, (i) persons for the reason that they belong to a group distinguished by race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin, as well as religion, if used as a pretext for any of these factors; or (ii) a group of persons which is distinguished by any of these characteristics.”

There's lots more.

The COE has autonomous ideas, and this might be one of them, but it is also a place that the USA uses as a policy laundry. The way it works is that when our government wants something they can't get from Congress, they go to the COE (or WIPO, or whatever), get it adopted in Europe, then go to Congress and say we our allies want us to conform to their standard….

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One Response to Council of Europe Sips at the Censorship Kool-Aid

  1. amalgram says:

    You’re right that this proposal seems squarely aimed at “speech” rather than (or in addition to) “conduct” (at least from a US law perspective — some CoE members may make that distinction differently from the US). But it’s also worth noting that the US didn’t sign onto the protocol (which was negotiated back in 2002) and has consistently opposed the kind of restrictions the CoE finally came up with (http://www.news.com/U.S.-wont-support-Net-hate-speech-ban/2100-1023_3-965983.html). So I’m not sure your speculation (that the US is somehow trying to accomplish through the CoE what it could not do domestically) rings true in this case.

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