Neelie KROES
Vice-President of the European Commission

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The EU fighting cyber-censorship abroad: an update on our work

Last December, after events in the Arab Spring, I launched our No Disconnect Strategy to ensure the Internet and ICTs are used to support our wider Human Rights strategy. I am happy to say there's been some very exciting developments – including significant funding available for projects to build new ICT tools and fight cyber-censorship abroad; and further work on human rights guidance for the ICT sector. First: we need to provide technological tools to those living under authoritarian regimes, whether they're campaigners, human rights defenders, NGOs, or whatever; as well as training and raising awareness on the risks and opportunities of ICT. I've been working hard with colleagues in the Commission to implement this. I'm delighted to say that on 4 June, we officially launched a targeted call for proposals under the EIDHR (the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights) - to provide concrete support to human rights defenders against cyber-censorship. The EIDHR has long been our main tool for promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms outside the EU; already it's financed many projects in areas like media freedom, the fight against censorship, and access to the Internet. This year, the global EIDHR call for proposals will include projects to fight cyber-censorship, protect confidentiality of activists, and use ICT to promote and defend democracy and human rights.  We are allocating €3 million specifically for this kind of projects. Anyone with suitable ideas for actions should respond to the call for proposals before 20 July. Second, complementing the EIDHR, we are looking at experimenting with these ideas on the large-scale Internet testing facilities provided by existing  EU research projects, for example supporting decentralised "community networks". Funding will be made available through open calls, for instance to security test and bug-proof human rights ICT tools: that's pretty important, given the dangerous environments where these tools might be used. Third, the No Disconnect Strategy is more than technology. I also want better cooperation among all stakeholders, including businesses. I expect the European ICT/Internet industry to step up self-regulation; but I realise this area is fraught with difficult choices and that sometimes commercial players need support from public authorities. This is why we are developing sector-specific guidance – including in the ICT/Internet sector – on the corporate responsibility towards human rights, based on work from the UN. Now there's a preliminary paper to help frame and stimulate discussions: on which you can send us your views before the end of June. We need lots of expertise and input, particularly to avoid fragmentation and duplication of efforts. Fourth, in the coming months I want to focus on another important piece of the puzzle: how can we truly understand the "state of the Internet" in repressive countries, and react accordingly? After all, if the Internet is disrupted in a country, it may be another "Egyptian switch-off". Or maybe it's just due to technical problems, like a submarine cable being cut – something which happens rather frequently! In the EU, we have a responsibility to act when faced with human rights violations, but we also need "good" information: quick, actionable and in context, to ensure we focus our action where it is really needed. There are many public and private initiatives in this area. So my staff will be mapping what is out there, looking at the synergies and how the Commission can add value – we'll start by holding a meeting here in Brussels by the end of 2012. And finally, what really matters is democracy; open markets; accountability; and the rule of law. Whenever I meet countries that need those reforms within my portfolio of telecommunications, Internet governance and media policy, I will continue to push for them.  
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  • john peters's picture

    Commissioner Kroes : Thanks for bringing up this very important  issue. There seems to be some  kind of censorship or other just about everywhere, like some big social networks ( not only Facebook and G+ but many others ) erasing some posts that they don't  like politically and at will , and like the important  issue of  "data limits"  in the USA , where cable and phone companies are trying to limit amounts of data that users can use, like for streaming video services, while at the same time they try to offer their own video proprietary services without any limits, and this is uncompetitive and monopolistic, this will kill any chances of new businesses , new solutions, new creativity and new jobs. The DoJ in the USA has started an Investigation :   Cable Tv's Data Curbs get scrutiny http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/06/13/BU7B1P1D30.DTL&type=tech Feds looking into Internet, cable provider curbs on data http://www.bendbulletin.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20120615/NEWS0107/206150331/1159&nav_category= and what will the EU say about this ? And since mobile smart phones are going to be vital,  to pay anywhere with multiple payment choices, to scan our own body signs and send them to our doctors , to study, research, shop, talk, work, trade, barter, create music or sell our products of many types  and keep tabs on sales, etc., etc.,  consumers need multiple choices , and so the news that Nokia is still only offering Microsoft and ending soon Symbian and also thinking about selling its share of vital Nokia Siemens Networks is incredibly absurd , many people are wondering : how is that possible ? why is Nokia not offering Android too ?  when they are the biggest ( or 2nd )  phone maker in the market and when the MS phone is not selling the numbers needed to justify exclusivity ?  , or why not also merge Nokia with RIM and add a  security - business- network  and millions of needed customers ?  , is there some inside deal to crash the stock value of Nokia and to force the sell of its assets to MS or Qualcomm or any other Private Equity , Hedge Funds or Investors ? , what's going on ? , and why not change the leadership of the company and launch all the options available ? how can Europe's executives stand still and watch this disaster unfold ? Dear Commissioner ,  sadly censorship and disconnect strategies come in many forms and shapes, thanks to you  for putting these key  issues on the table, this is just the beginning of the full possibilities of the Internet ( like the EU's  full possibilities ) , let's make sure they both can grow to their full potentials , thanks.
  • Critical Citizen's picture

    What a bad joke: Fighting cyber-censorship abroad. Instead of botching around with dubious celebrities like your friend Mr. zu Guttenberg, what you ought to do, is fighting cyber-censorship in the EU, that means: right here. Why are you so keen to play sheriff abroad as long as there's so much to do in your very own sector, the European Union? Just for instance Hungary, the Netherlands, France, the UK (internet censorship at large), Scandinavia as a whole (constant online censorship and extensive filtering), Germany (suppression of anti-governmental, critical content plus filtering) ...the list is much longer. Recently, Google published data about country authorities demanding the enterprise for censorship, please have a look at it! It's alarming to see even what Google did concede, not just what some authorities asked to remove (and for which reasons), especially check out Germany for the latter ... What you and your fishy NDS do, is pulling the wool over our eyes: You pretend fighting against censorship—outside of EU borders—and do nothing against censorship/filtering, suppression of free expression etc. here. Why?! You're two-faced and cannot be trusted by freedom loving EU citizens. Shame on you, Mrs Kroes!
  • Erti's picture

    Thanks alot for speaking your mind.
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