EU decisions in a globally connected world


Marietje Schaake is a Dutch politician for the social liberal party Democrats 66 (D66). Schaake talks about the global debate of freedom of information and Internet freedom, and the EU decisions concerning freedom of information. Her political party D66 has voted for Internet freedom and there’s an increasingly amount of voices sharing this opinion. As she states: “We need to reverse economy over rights include more accountability, transparency in order to be credible to our own citizens but also credible players in the world”.


  • Date of recording: Mon, 2011-06-13
  • Language(s) spoken:

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The year 1966

00:22 My Twitter name is MarietjeD66, and D66 stands for Democrat 66 which was established as a democratic perform party in the year 1966. What kind of a year was that? It was the year when president Johnson signed the Freedom of Information Act. Was the year of the Vietnam War, and it was the year in which military [?] in no less than seven countries. Was also in the middle of the Cold War, in which the world seemed conveniently divided between the free world and the repressed rest of the world. And when we look at the discussions or listen to the [??] around the Internet freedom debate, its almost seems as though the world is still divided between the free world and repressing regimes, which use technologies to repress people and who we have to convince that they should be more respectful of Internet freedom. 


Europe and US is watching you: Deep packet inspections

01:14 What I’m very cautious to say we actually present the free world in this respect. I don’t think we have our own house in order in Europe and in the United States these days. And it really compromises our credibility to speak to Internet freedom in the rest of the world. There’s a constant compromise it’s been mentioned some of by the previous speakers between economic benefits and people’s fundamental rights and freedoms.


01:40 I’m gonna go through a small selection cause to go over everything would be way to much. There are now deep packet inspections into people’s information and exchange of communication to effectively enforce the breaching of net neutrality. There’s an increased push for intermediary liability and law for interception can easily be involved when you are a football player of the UK and you don’t want people to know who you’ve had an affair with.


02:11 There’s a growing list or a slippery slope of what is considered undesired content, which started with child pornography, terrorism, hate speech, and now includes intellectual property rights enforcement. And without much additional overside Internet service providers are required to monitor what their users do and even block and intervene themselves without a judge interfering. Last week at the EG8, the French president Sarkozy made a call for more regulation for the Internet. Well, the last time we heard about regulation of French it was in the form of the infamous three strike laws, and the French European commissioner came out with an intellectual property rights enforcement directive last week, in which the most used words were “enforcement” and “protection”. 


03:03 We are lacking a balance in the discussion about cyber security including Internet freedom and we risk repeating the war of terror all over again. While some companies make a plea for the free flow of information as a trade barrier, the accountability and transparency of their own flows of information are unknown to the politicians who are supposed to help them. Acquire the free flow of information as a trade barrier and the examples go on [Mika?] note that the responses to WikiLeaks in the United States, which are troubling, etc etc. 


Consumer activism and state media in Egypt

03:39 D66, my political party has voted in [??] for having Internet freedom as a fundamental right for people. In last week’s report by the special representants of the UN, this was actually enforced and there’s an increasing amount of voices sharing that opinion and I’m very happy about that. 


04:01 We need to reverse economy over rights include more accountability, transparency in order to be credible to our own citizens but also credible players in the world. And that world is in a bit of a paradox cause we make laws on a basis of a nation state: we live in a globally connected environment. And the speed in which technologies develop are in no way met with the speed in which laws are being passed. 


04:34 The conquering of the online territory does not overlap with the territory of the nation’s state. And to highlight this complexity and what we might be able to do in situations like this I want to focus on the case of Egypt. But not without complementing [or complimenting?] the Egyptian people for defying fear, violence, dead, to go into the streets and to speak (applause) about freedom and their rights. And I also wanna thank Andrew and Mika for having so much attention during pdf [??] for North Africa and the Middle East, these are crucial times and I think it’s great you are doing that. 


05:13 Now it was a people’s revolution, people’s uprising we can’t underline that enough but technology did play a role. It helped organize, mobilize, it help people to express themselves, and it also helped documenting human rights violations, and sharing those with the rest of the world. And Mumbarak understood this. His government understood this. So this is what happened: (demonstrating a presentation about Egyptian Spam Sources, and Egyptian Search-Engine Use).


05:47 While Egypt was in the dark, Western companies were also forced to shut down their services at the orders of the government. And Vodafone, UK corporated company, was a fifty-four precent shareholder of Vodafone Egypt, said the following: (demonstrating a presentation slide about Vodafone’s website page on January 28th, 2011. The presentation slide says: “All mobile operators in Egypt have been instructed to suspend services in selected areas. Under Egyptian legislation the authorities have the right to issue such an order and we are obliged to comply with it. The Egyptian authorities will be clarifying the situation in due course”. 


06:10 They were ordered to shut down services or expecting the Egyptian authorities to clarify the situation in due course. 


06:20 While no Egyptian could use mobile internet and communications, they were received messages like this: (demonstrating a presentation slide).


06:28 Which translates into … this: (demonstrating another presentation slide) 


06:33 Effectively, the had become state media. 


06:37 I’ve asked for a EU inquiry to the situation that EU ICT and telecom companies found themselves in but high representative Catherine Ashton has not yet answered my letter. 


06:51 Last week, Egypt had his own processes of accountability, which is very wonderful. Total of ninety million US dollars was in place in five or three former ministers. And while that it’s wonderful, it only focussed on the economic losses and not on the human rights violations, and I think that’s a tremendous missed opportunity. 


07:15 Egyptian people think so too. 

07:18 They started a site called “I hate Vodafone” (applause and laughs)


Internet Freedom is human right

07:24 And I think we will see much more of this consumer activism, which [??] crossed borders and to encourage politicians to take action. Of course we’ve heard of the global network initiative where corporations decide to have a Code of Conduct but governments also have a responsibility. We must practice what we preach, and I’m not talking about over-regulating: I’m talking about simply taking our core responsibility of defending people’s fundamental rights and freedoms. Some actions that I think we can take.


07:57 We can ensure access to the Internet is a fundamental right in more places in the world that becomes the mainstream. And when we impose weapon’s embargo in countries where we think that the government will do nothing else but kill people with the weapons we may provide them, we should think about which ICT products should be included cause some of these products can hurt human rights all the same. Should simply be mainstream impact of weapon’s embargo, we don’t have to discuss these separately over and over again. 


08:28 There are mails of betrayed restrictions with certain countries, of which it’s considered as punishment, and we should see what role the so-called dual used technologies play in this. And perhaps evaluate this role in a continuous basis because as new technologies develop they may have different implication for human rights, in different places in the world and in the hands of different players. 


08:52 In the EU, we do human rights impact assessments before we agree to trade circumstances, before trade circumstances with third countries. I think we should do human rights impact assessments on ICT in the [RND?] phase so that we can already be ahead of the curve thinking about how human rights might be affected instead of running behind all the time. And we should also look at monitoring what happens in different places where ICT and telecom products that come from Europe actually land and how they play out in the real world. This monitoring, this assessing on the basis of human rights is not developed efficiently yet. 


09:33 And we must also separate population from government and encourage them to use those tools that may help them exercise their fundamental human rights. What’s fundamentally important in all these decisions, whether it’s empowering individuals, consumers, people in the West or in other places acknowledge. And I would invite all of you to really help build acknowledge base on the part of decisions makers because lobby is very strong and it is very difficult for people to make well informed decisions in this difficult environment. But I think it must be the basis of all of our work. And I’m sure you can help with that. 


10:18 I’ve started a working group in the European parliament that brings together this knowledge between NGO’s, other stakeholders, civil society, companies, and decision makers to ensure that there is more transparency and accountability. It’s not about technology but it’s about the people. And the Internet has changed many things but let’s not get stuck into all the technical part but keep in mind that the fundamental rights of people have not changed and your government is responsible for save-guarding that and you could hold us account for that. 





Personal Democracy Forum 2011 (