Archive for the 'Articles' Category

Social Media Regulation and Human Rights: the Impact of Germany’s Network Enforcement Act

By Reza Majd, on 17 January 2018

Written by: Isobel Blakeway-Phillips

Disclaimer: This blog post solely reflects the opinion of the author and should not be taken to represent the general views of IPPR’s management team or those of fellow authors.

Germany’s Network Enforcement Act (NetzDG), which entered into force on 1 October 2017, holds social network platforms responsible for moderating content.[1] NetzDG mandates several changes to the way that social media companies respond to complaints, including requiring platforms appoint points of contact to monitor complaints of unlawful conduct, and remove them within 24 hours to 7 days.[2] Platforms which fail to comply could be fined up to 50 million euros by the Ministry of Justice.

NetzDG entered into force only days after the EU Commission published its own Communication on Tackling Illegal Content Online. In response to the rise in terrorist attacks throughout Europe, linked to the “increasing availability of terrorist content online”, the Commission sought to provide guidance for online platforms that mediate access to that content. The communication does little more than provide guidance to platforms on how they might take responsibility. It takes no view on what constitutes ‘illegal content,’ leaving it to national governments to distinguish what is acceptable online, although it does note that “what is illegal offline is also illegal online” (p.2). The guidance is divided between detection and notification, effective removal, and preventative measures to stop reappearance.

NetzDG enacted very similar policies to those set out in the EU Commission’s Communication only a few days earlier. Like the Communication, NetzDG requires online platforms to monitor and remove complaints of illegal content in a short time period– between 24 hours and 7 days. It also requires platforms appoint an intermediary in Germany to respond to any complaints, remove content, and assist the authorities with responding to illegal content. The Act covers a very broad definition of ‘social network’, covering any platform which enables individuals to share content with each other, but specifically excludes websites offering journalistic or editorial content. The German government expects this to cover around 10 companies, which seems low considering the broad definition.

NetzDG does have noble intentions. It allows the disclosure of subscribers’ personal information with a court order, “insofar as this is necessary for the enforcement of civil law claims arising from the violation of absolutely protected rights by unlawful content.”[3] The more transparent processes sanction police to quickly track and prosecute those making threats online. While terrorist organizations are unlikely to use public platforms to coordinate attacks, the German government clearly feels NetzDG will enable them to better preempt lone wolf attacks, as well as targeting users who incite others to violence. The Act also requires platforms to remove manifestly illegal content within 24 hours and all illegal content within 7 days, ensuring that it does not propagate.[4]

Nonetheless NetzDG is controversial. By allowing platforms to disclose subscribers’ personal information with a court order, the Bundestag significantly undermines citizens’ rights to privacy. Websites previously considered bastions of free speech are now expected to monitor users’ speech. By following such court orders, platforms essentially become a back door for governments to access every citizen’s private information. As considerable information is already publicly available, and the metadata provided by public posts is likely more useful in determining the habits of a user, it is not clear how access to users’ IP addresses and their privately held information would be necessary to find and charge individuals for criminal acts. Clearer authorizations for police to access user data may at first glance seem beneficial to the rule of law, but the risk of unnecessary infringements on citizens’ privacy overrides the benefits of an efficient police force. That easier processes for police are in any way balanced against privacy rights is in itself problematic, particularly when the Act provides no further guidance on what would constitute adequate justification for a court order. (more…)

India at 70, Britain at Crossroads

By Shuting Xia, on 11 March 2017

Written by Tim Falder

Photo credit: dnaindia.com

Photo credit: dnaindia.com

‘Congratulations!’ said I, beer-swilling lout that I am, ‘2017! 70 years of India!’. Ravi looked back at me stony-faced. ‘India has been around for 5000 years, Tim. It’s not a birthday, it’s our independence’.

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Moscow’s dangerous political games in Europe’s ‘soft underbelly’

By Shuting Xia, on 25 February 2017

Written by Sabin Selimi

Photo credit: voovix.com

Photo credit: voovix.com

One of Putin’s Russian foreign policy objectives is to produce crises in the Western Balkans. The Kremlin’s goal is to sow chaos and has sought to prevent the region from falling under the influence of the Euro-Atlantic alliance. Thus Moscow depends on creating instability in order to derail the region’s path to Euro-Atlantic integration. The attempted coup in Montenegro is one of the political games Moscow played in the region, which would have killed the then pro-West prime minister, Milo Djukanovic, and replaced him with a pro-Russian government in order to prevent the country from joining NATO. We have to understand that these are very dangerous political games. The climate worsens. The tensions build up. And then somebody comes up with populist and nationalist pronouncements. We need to move towards democratisation, cohesive state-building and the path to Euro-Atlantic integration, not this continuous fragmentation.

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Anatomy of an occupation: West Papua and the need for international solidarity

By Simone R Nielsen, on 17 February 2017

Written by Mali Siloko

Photo credit: West Papua Media

Photo credit: West Papua Media

One might think of Armenia, Namibia or North Korea as some of the forgotten genocides of the 20th and 21st centuries.  It is likely that we have all heard of events that occurred in Rwanda, Bosnia and East Timor. Yet, it is unlikely that people are aware of the ongoing occupation characterised by mass murder, extrajudicial killings, torture, disappearances, policy impunity and resource exploitation in West Papua. It is one of the least covered conflicts in the world. The international community recognised Indonesia’s wrongful occupation of East Timor; also needs to recognise the illegal occupation of West Papua.

On 12 November 2016, I held an ‘Evening for West Papua’ where Benny Wenda, an independence fighter from West Papua living in exile with his family in the UK, testified to the injustices he and his family faced whilst still in West Papua. During the discussion with Wenda and the audience, a woman put her hand up to say that she was Indonesian and that she was willing to be a part of civil resistance (more…)

Caution and scepticism is the best way for the UK to approach its new relationship with the US

By Shuting Xia, on 13 February 2017

Written by Samuel Hall

Photo credit: zwooper.com

Photo credit: zwooper.com

As the Prime Minister jets off to go and make sweet talk with the Republican congress before greeting the new President in whatever obsequious manner she has planned; I find myself increasingly disturbed at the parochial view my government is taking in new its relationship with the United States. Much of the rhetoric around Trump’s Presidency and the future of UK-US relations – which has been present in UK, recently amongst politicians and newspaper commentators – has left me both disconcerted and frustrated. The obsession we are seeing from the government and from many in the media about how important the ‘special relationship’ is, is becoming increasingly painful to observe.

We fawn over every throwaway comment the Donald makes. It is headline news when he makes an off-the-cuff remark about his mother being a fan of the Queen. When he told Michael Gove in an interview for The Times that the UK is ‘doing great’ after Brexit and that leaving the EU will be a ‘great thing’ for Britain, it was splashed across the front pages. This rejoicing by so much of the media was despite the fact that most of us here in the UK have watched Trump tell and repeat bare-faced lies for months. The same papers seem to be outraged when he lies about Obama literally founding ISIS, but become silly with excitement when the same man lies about the virtues of Brexit. I’m not implying that the Brexit vote has resulted in the UK falling into chaos, it hasn’t – but has it really been that great? What has actually happened which would convince Donald so strongly that we are doing so great? The more obvious answer is that he doesn’t know how the UK is doing, nor do I think he particularly cares. (more…)

Are France and Germany moving towards creating a more unified European defence after Brexit and Trump?

By Simone R Nielsen, on 6 February 2017

Written by Sabin Selimi

Photo credit: Gitty images

Photo credit: Gitty images

The United Kingdom is one of the leading military powers in Europe and one of few NATO members that meets the 2% target of defence spending. Soon after the UK voted to exit the European Union last year, the German defence minister said that her country and France would lead talks with other members of the bloc for closer defence and security cooperation in Europe. She said that the UK had ‘paralysed’ progress towards the Union’s military cooperation

Both France and Germany are NATO members. France, a nuclear-armed state with a permanent seat at the UN Security Council, is more willing to act unilaterally, considering their recent interventions in Mali and the Central African Republic. Germany, on the other hand, is not yet ready to initiate any military operation abroad as it is still more reluctant than France to deploy military force, partly because of its cautious public opinion and its civilian power narrative. Germany has mostly worked within the NATO framework where there was real need such as in the case of Kosovo and later in Afghanistan. Germany will also act in coalition with other allies such as in the case of Berlin’s support to the international anti-Daesh coalition following the Paris terrorist attacks two years ago.

Both Paris and Berlin do not necessarily agree on the end goal of the EU’s common defence and security policy due to the differences in their cultures of strategic adjustment. (more…)