The EDRi (Euorpean Digital Rights) website posted a leaked document from the Clean IT project that shows the European group is veering a bit off course from its original aim of establishing voluntary self-regulatory measures to protect the Internet from terrorists. Instead of identifying specific problems to be solved, the Clean IT project has become “little more than a protection racket.”
The Clean IT project is funded by the Prevention of and Fight against Crime Programme of the European Commission, and supported by Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Belgium. Believing that partnerships between public and private organizations can be more effective than government involvement, the main objective of the project is “to develop a non-legislative ‘framework’ that consists of general principles and best practices.”
EDRi states that the initial meetings of the project members were directionless and ill-informed discussions about doing “something” to solve unidentified online “terrorist” problems and that they were mainly attended by filtering companies who saw them as a business opportunity. In the end, says, EDRi, “Their work has paid off, with numerous proposals for filtering by companies and governments, proposals for liability in case sufficiently intrusive filtering is not used, and calls for increased funding by governments of new filtering technologies.”
In other words, we can’t specifically define the problem, which makes it even harder to come up with a solution. These guys over here say filters will take care of it, so let’s just filter the entire Internet and call it a day.
In an April 2012 letter from the Clean IT Project Manager to the Bits of Freedom blog, the coordinator reiterates that the goal of the project it to first identify problems and then enter into an open discussion with the private and public sectors and cooperate to come up with solutions. “This project will only present solutions when there is consensus between public and private parties about both the problem and the solution.”
The group proposes that Internet companies use stricter terms of service agreements to ban unwelcome activity, but advise that these “should not be very detailed”. They cite the Microsoft Code of Conduct as an example, which includes the line, “You will not upload, post, transmit, transfer, distribute or facilitate distribution of any content which depicts nudity of any sort including full or partial human nudity or nudity in non-human forms such as cartoons, fantasy art or manga.”
Under that agreement a picture of Donald Duck wouldn’t be allowed because the poor little guy is never wearing any pants. But who’s going to ban a picture of Donald Duck? The statement is just ambiguous enough to allow the Powers That Be the option of censoring whenever they feel like censoring.
In other words, says EDRi, “If Donald Duck is displeasing to the police, they would welcome, but don’t explicitly demand, ISPs banning his behavior in their terms of service.” And, as you’ll see below, one of the recommendations in the Clean IT initiative states, “Governments should use the helpfulness of ISPs as a criterion for awarding public contracts.”
The Clean IT Project calls for binding agreements from Internet companies to carry out surveillance, to block and to filter. It also wants to create a network of trusted online informants and they’re even calling for stricter legislation from member states, even though their original intention was to cooperate on a public and private level and keep the government out of it.