The Telecom Package is an extensive collection of new rulings devised by the European Parliament with the intention to protect consumers' rights in the telecommunications sector. In addition to many welcome innovations to the benefit of consumers, the package also includes new rulings enabling authorities to persecute users of file-sharing platforms and establish Internet filtering measures. In anticipation of these powers German politicians are planning the establishment of an extensive infrastructure for Internet censorship.
This Thursday, the European Council of Ministers started another round of talks on the Telecom Package, which includes numerous new rulings on electronic communications (mobile and other phones, radio, TV and Internet). The content of communications does not really fall within the area of competence of the European rulings, but lobbyists from the music and movie industry have successfully influenced the legislative process. If the Telecom Package is passed in its current form, the systematic surveillance of German telecommunications will become stricter in the next two years and file-sharers will be persecuted ever more heavily, perhaps to the extent of taking away their Internet access without conviction for any offence.
In the name of regulation of the telecommunications market, the Telecom Package will curtail basic freedoms and civil rights of all Europeans. The right to free and unimpaired access to communications and information is to be sacrificed to the profit goals of the content mafia. Without access to the Internet, the majority of Germans couldn't live a normal life anymore; for example, it is impossible to study at a German university without Internet access, since all important information and administrative data is transmitted electronically. When the e-Government goals of the German federal government are in place, being banned from the Internet will equal a de-facto removal of a person's civil rights.
Simultaneously, conservative politicians whom appear to be noticeably clueless about the Internet, such as Family Minister Ursula von der Leyen and Minister for Economic Affairs Michael Glos, are trying to install a nationwide infrastructure for Internet censorship. The plan of the German conservative party CDU includes obligating service providers to install filtering systems. Companies selling Internet routers offer service providers such devices to “optimize bandwidth usage”. It is not yet widely known that they can easily be used for the censorship of any given piece of content on the Internet. If those “censorship devices” become widely used, complete censorship of unpopular or oppositional content will become easy to implement. Then the only relevant question will be who is going to manage the censorship lists – and by what standards.
“With this step, Europe and Germany are putting themselves on the same level as dictatorships and authoritarian regimes, which also claim to aim to protect their citizens of negative influences,” CCC spokesperson Dirk Engling said. "Network neutrality, which is crucial for innovation, progress, free speech and the advance of society, will be undermined.”
The suppression of websites containing child pornography is merely a pretext for the installation of such censorship infrastructure. Social problems like child pornography cannot be eliminated by attempting to tuning them out. Instead, law enforcement agencies must finally get enough personnel and equipment to effectively take action against the people producing and distributing child pornography. Again, the government is trying to sell unsuitable and inefficient measures as solutions, instead of providing enough resources for effective and target-oriented action.
The Chaos Computer Club opposes every form of restriction of access to unobstructed communications and information. Free exchange of information is one of the pillars of western civilisation and must not be sacrificed to the profit oriented interests of media companies or pretended law enforcement goals. Instead of finally acknowledging Internet access as an elementary condition for cultural participation and the realisation of the human right to information and communication, politicians are still discussing under which circumstances people can be excluded from this medium.
“Yet again, the spirit and the letter of the German Constitution are being ignored. Whether this is happening because of incompetence or of malice is now irrelevant,” CCC spokesperson Dirk Engling concludes.