Liotard: ‘Protect the neutrality of the Internet'

7 May 2009

Liotard: ‘Protect the neutrality of the Internet'

On Wednesday 6th May the European Parliament voted in favour of a report on the so-called 'Telecom package', though they also supported an SP_backed amendment which will protect the civil rights of Internet users. The ostensible aim of the proposed legislation is the creation of a uniform telecoms market and the reinforcement of consumers' rights. Amendments were presented, however, which if carried would make it possible for both public authorities and Internet providers to monitor users' data traffic and place restrictions on individual users suspected of breach of copyright. Opposing these moves, SP Euro-MP Kartika Liotard said that that the priority must be the preservation of the neutrality of the Internet. As the vote showed, the European Parliament majority was in substantial agreement with this standpoint.

Kartika Liotard“What's clear here is that a strong entertainments industry lobby has been hard at work," says Liotard. "The fundamental right to privacy and freedom of expression would be stamped on if access to the Internet could simply be withdrawn without the alleged transgressor having the right to a fair hearing in court. The neutrality of the Internet must be guaranteed. If the telecom corporations can monitor data traffic on communication networks and block access to the Internet at their own discretion, this represents a substantial restriction of civil liberties. People must have a guarantee that their personal data will be protected and that they cannot be used by private companies. We don't want to be seen as simply consumers or customers when we use the Internet to communicate or gather information. We want to be treated as human beings with all of our civil rights respected."

Liotard notes that one member state has already moved to punish alleged misuse without the bother of holding a trial to establish the facts. "France brought forward a proposal to exclude users who have allegedly made three illegal downloads. In my opinion this kind of policy goes much too far. I don't approve of illegal downloads, but it's completely idiotic to exclude people on this basis. There should be no restriction on public access to the Internet."

On the initiative of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left, the political grouping in which the SP participates in the European Parliament, an amendment was carried to the original report which, if confirmed in later negotiations with the member state governments, will mean that limitations to Internet access must be decided in court, and can only be enforced if the limitation is founded in national law. Unfortunately, another amendment, giving Internet service providers the right to exclude users from certain services, was also carried.

Disagreement between the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, which directly represents the member states, must now be settled in a process known as 'conciliation'. The final shape of the legislation is therefore not yet known.

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