Neelie KROES
Vice-President of the European Commission

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No disconnect – ICT helping Human Rights across the world

There’s been a huge amount of interest in my announcement of a "no disconnect" strategy, to improve internet freedom around the world. In particular, there has been a lot of interest in my choice to invite Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg to assist me with this work. Human Rights, including the right to communicate freely, runs through everything we do here in the EU. Online communications is no different. So I am determined to use the wake-up call of the Arab Spring to increase the positive role of technology in the spread of democracy. In 1982 in Syria, the Hama massacre was hidden for months. But in 2011, video-sharing services helped us be aware of the regime's abuses, and take action. While in Egypt, social media tools allowed people to by-pass state-run media. Everyone with a mobile could be a journalist. We have been talking to experts, policymakers, and activists themselves about what we can do to support this. We have called this work our "no disconnect" strategy, because when peaceful protests are being planned, connectivity is everything. Communications networks must stay switched on. I spoke in more detail on the four strands of actions we need to take last Friday at a major international conference in The Hague: technological tools; education about opportunities and risks for activists; high-quality intelligence, and cooperation. There are many ideas out there that could form the basis of a solution. For example, deploying "Internet survival packs" to activists: easy-to-use software or hardware packages which could help people to bypass censorship and counter surveillance. And we could stimulate EU companies to develop self-regulatory approaches (or join existing ones, such as the Global Network Initiative) so we stop selling despots their ICT tools of repression. Equally, hosting support could help prohibited content reach its audience (blogs and videos for example). I myself am working closely with Cathy Ashton and the External Action Service. Already in the area of media freedom, I have asked advice from a number of wise and experienced people, including, by the way, Herta Däubler-Gmelin, former German Minister of Justice. And I'm aware of the importance the European Parliament attaches to internet freedom as an essential part of our approach to protect human rights. But we will need to involve all sectors, and include a lot of ideas. And that’s where Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg comes in. As he himself has acknowledged, if anyone understands the power of the internet, and its power to hold authorities to account, it is Karl-Theodor. Anyone who has worked with Karl-Theodor – and I myself have done so closely when he was German Economics Minister - would recognise his great political abilities. But what I also admire in him is his fresh and international outlook. As someone who led two ministries relevant to this work – including being in charge of armed and security forces - I know he can have the essential conversations and new ideas that we need to help those who are suffering right now because their online (and offline) rights are not respected. If you are wondering why Karl-Theodor and not someone else, I would say that I am looking for talent, not saints. I am asking him to do an important job; nothing more, nothing less. I live in the future, not the past. I’ll report back when we have some progress to show for our efforts. Necessarily, some of what we do will have to be discreet. But equally, it is important that the initiative has a profile - to raise the awareness by all those who can contribute, and by all those who stand to benefit.


  • Who can believe that you are really a "Blog Admin"? I'm not a Blog Admin, but look at my name. This blog system is really bad. "Great" IT competence ...
  • Congratulations for choosing such a credible and trustworthy partner.
  • I really  hope that you have a great sense of humour as the writer of the comment above has irony.   Mrs Commissioner, your talking about living in the future and not the past is senseless to put it mildly. If you call  your  new  helper talented you are evaluating his past performance.  He is totally untalented  as he does not understand that free speech is about stating your ideas and respecting other people's ideas by QUOTING them and not stealing them.
  • Dear M. Kroes, it's great that you judge people by what they will be able to do in the future. But German people still have big problems with Guttenberg, because he is not able to talk honestly about the past. Why should we believe in a man, who is not able to stand up for his mistakes? How can we trust him?
  • short answer: we can't
  • I'm utterly disgusted by your choice of the failed politician, cheater and liar zu Guttenberg. He has no qualification whatsoever that would justify his nomination. This is a disgrace for the European Commission and will undermine the approval of the EU institutions by the European people(s) even further.
  • Sure he has. His family sponsored the whole University which in turn gave him his "Magna cum Laude". He voted for internet censorship in Germany, so he probably is an expert on that topic. Looks like EU is no better than our local politicians. :-(
  • Well, it was even "summa cum laude", i.e., "with highest honor", and all that for stealing at least about two thirds of the bulk text:
  • Dear Mrs. Kroes. I hope you heard about the 'internet stop sign' law, which was introduced last year in Germany and canceled some weeks ago. It was a censorship law with no effect to those crimes it was targeted to. Karl Theodor has been a big supporter of it and has even accused those who opposed it to advocate child abuse. How can you take this person with such double standards in freedom and civil rights to fight for them?
  • Speaking of talents, I *strongly* suggest that you consider asking Mr Jacob Appelbaum, @ioerror on Twitter, to join the initiative as an expert adviser. Mr Appelbaum is a stong advocate for ethics & human rights and an open internet. Furthermore, he has also practical working experience and expertise in bringing mobile internet to disaster-struck areas, e.g Iraq and New Orleans in ther aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It would also be worth taking a look at the Telecomix collective and asking them to provide expertise, as @mmu_man had suggested to you on Twitter. Choosing Mr Guttenberg as an adivsor for this project threatens to overshadow the good intentions and to undermine the credibility of the No Disconnect programme, in my humble opinion.   Concerning the export of surveillance technology, it is totally unacceptable to call for the industry to impose self-regulatory rules on themselves. Dual-use technology is obviously always difficult to handle when it comes to exports but when human-rights are most likely to be violated and political opponents could potentially be oppressed, there's is only one viable solution: Creating a black-list of states who fail to meet the EU's standards on human rights, setting up an export ban on surveillance technology to those countries and threatening member states who do not comply with those rules with severe sanctions. Export restrictions similar to those on weapons and arms should also apply to surveillance and interception gear. The EU member states would not export arms to Syria due to human rights abuses so why should it be acceptable to equip Syria with technology to allow spying on their citizens (and notably political opponents)? Anything less than an export ban would be considered to be hubris and double-standards by the EU and its member states.  
  • Dear Anne, I still consider that having a qualified plagiarist as an adviser (Mr. zu Guttemberg, although I do not fully agree with his nomination) gives more credibility to Commission´s actions than bringing along to high level international meetings an adviser who supports machines in Arse Elektronica (Mr. Appelbaum: Can you think for a second of the press reactions if a public institution entrusts certain duties to someone who volunteers to perform live during a sex fair??? Please, get informed before making recommendations to Commissioners. Not all what glitters is gold. And as regards blocking of exports, have you ever considered that alternative supply of such technology will not cease and that the US blocking policies only lead to the development of indigenous technology over which EU will have no control whatsoever?  (example: if EU does not deliver there, India, China, Israel, etc, will do so). Therefore your solution is only partly effective. Either global measures are taken, either this would continue to be the circus it is now. Regards
  • It's nice that you are looking for talent, but is talent enough? Would the Commission employ anyone just for the "talent"? I have not yet seen a single concours of EPSO just checking for talent. On the other hand, as a long time university lecturer, I have seen many talented students who - in addition to their "talent" and their "fresh and international outlook" - also developed expertise in internet issues - could I direct them to you for a similar high profile position? Or is expertise something that would stand in the way of acting as an adviser? I trust that you find Mr zu Guttenberg to be a "talent"  (and I don't care that he is  "not a saint"); but the logic for appointing him seems severely flawed ("if anyone understands the power of the internet, and its power to hold authorities to account, it is Karl-Theodor"):  Would you consider appointing a convicted criminal as an adviser on Justice and Home affairs and then argue:  "if anyone understands the power of law enforcement, it is XY, who served 10 years in jail"? I am sorry to say, but appointing someone who has not (at least not yet) developed a personal reputation as an expert - not just a "talent" - on internet freedom for this position seriously damages the credibility of the whole program.
  • Is not straight that mrs kroes choose a talent , because herself is a unbeliefer :)))) but talent much comes from Good God power ,. right?:) 
  • I live in the future, not the past. You keep mentioning his political success (which would have happened in the past, if it only existed), but when it comes to his failure you prefer not to face it. You two will become a great team.
  • Dear Mrs. Kroes, I agree with the previous comments. Mr. zu Guttenberg is not credible in the eyes of a big part of the German population. Of course, everyone needs a second chance but not before he has confessed and recognized his trespasses. In the case of Mr. zu Guttenberg this did not happen - rather he keeps on denying it and uses contrived elusions.   I fear that your good and ambitious initiative will be overshadowed by your choice to work with Mr. zu Guttenberg and will be a  permanent strain.   As a creedal European citizen I would like to ask you, to rethink your decision.
  • What an appalling farce. Delegating the issue of "internet freedom" to a fraudster like Guttenberg, who used to be a staunch supporter of setting up an infrastructure for internet censorship in Germany, will only hurt the cause. By the way, if the EU is concerned about freedom of speech, it should have a closer look at its own member states (Hungary, for example) before educating the rest of world. At the end of the day there remains the question why an EU commissioner from the Netherlands chooses to support the political comeback of the German "baron" Guttenberg. You start to wonder which networks of social power are at work here. Talking about democracy...
  • Sorry, but making Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg lead this initiative will only assure  its failure. Any civil right activist with a little bit of self esteem will boycott him right from the beginning and the only sector he will be able to reach out are "security" software providers that are looking for an easy way to make quick money.
  • MOGiS (a german organization of victims of sexual abuse opposing internet blocking) just made me remember that Mr zu Guttenberg has been one of the most outspoken proponents of Internet Blocking in Germany. As it was pointed out he suggested that opponents of the blocking must be sex offenders. Just how can this man honestly defend internet freedom? Perhaps you should have asked somebody from EDRi or LQDN to help with their assistence in your endeavour. They at least can be believed .. KT zu Guttenberg can't .. He even cheated in his PhD.
  • "As someone who led two ministries relevant to this work – including being in charge of armed and security forces – I know he can have the essential conversations and new ideas that we need to help those who are suffering right now because their online (and offline) rights are not respected." This sentence makes no sense whatsoever. Well, unless the EU is planning to achieve "internet freedom" by military actions.
  • There are so many real Internet activists out there, and you had to choose a notorious cheater and liar (convicted for cheating on his PhD!), and an opponent of Internet freedom (his ministry wrote the Internet censorship law known as "Zugangserschwerungsgesetz") ? It appears you are not at all serious about your goals.
  • In my oppinion, Mr. Guttenberg ist a terrible choice. As already said in other posts, he was one of the politicians in Germany who massively defended the position to establish Internet surveillance and blocking of Internet access in order to prevent crimes. In these days, he made comments on these things in a way that indirectly accused net activists of supporting criminals if they were not willing to support the course of him and his party. I think people who consider the net as part of their life and who remember this time will not trust someone like him. Plus, he cheated and betrayed and I can not see any honest sign that he learned from his mistakes - he still is trying to find excuses, he accuses others for his own failures and stabs the people who supported him in the back - like he did when he was an active politician (and even before the whole Guttenplag affair) I think someone like him should not get responsibility at all, but exspecially not in an area where he disappointed and insulted people so much like in the whole Internet / net activism topic.
  • at least he is a good liar
  • I would'nt say he's a good liar. A good lie is not recognized as a lie but in the case of Mr. Guttenberg his lies were fairly obvious. Indeed he is a liar. But just one who keeps lying rather than admitting the truth.
  • How unfortunate that Guttenberg gets all the headlines. Your nomination to the Commission for the Unmasking of political riffraffs went largely unnoticed.
  • I wonder, Commissioner Kroes, if it is of any concern to you Mr. K.T. zu Guttenberg works as a lobbyist for, as your staff listed in the press announcement. CSIS is an American lobby organisation specialised on defense industries and notorious cold war extremism, and it is not listed in the EU transparency register. Don't you see a conflict of interest here? A dissident who accepts technical assistance from a person working with CSIS would be domestically charged for collaborating with US intelligence. What may be considered a disgrace for Germans, that a former Minister now works as a lobbyist for a foreign defense group in the United States, would result in criminal liabilities for the affected dissident. Formally there would be nothing objectionable about such prosecutions, in particular as funding sources of CSIS are not disclosed. In addition to that does Mr Guttenberg meet  homeland security requirements of the European Union? Where professional security checks performed on him and prior to his appointment?
  • Giving a corruption a better face? Sorry, I seem unable to understand your intention with this announcement. If you want to discredit your work and the EU commission you are doing it right, and while this would be in line with the work and public view on your organisation, it somehow doubt this was what you are aiming for.
  • How is Guttenbergs stand on censorship laws regarding internet access? Especially those who use secret lists to block access and elude any public control? To name one example, we could use the law his own ministry proposed in 2009 in Germany. ->   How can somebody who has clearly positioned himself on the side of state control over liberty and freedom promote the "no disconnect strategy" vs the government of other states? Where is the credibility in this history? Which internet activist would ever trust him? A personal statement on this change of attitude would be MOST welcome!  
  • You're not interested in the past, ok. How about the present, then? At the moment there's Mr zu Guttenberg's book on sale where he admits that he can't be held responsible for his doings because he can't organise his work. What a talent, indeed! This strategy is bound to fail like everything Mr. zu Guttenberg touches. His access blocking law has been nullified by the German Parliament a few days ago. Thanks to many people who spoke up against that law we have more freedom in that country now. Another failure for the talented Mr. zu Guttenberg. War is Peace Freedom is Slavery Ignorance is Power Access Blocking is No Disconnect
  • Sorry to say that, but your choice is in no way justifiable. It's a slap in the face of every honest person on this planet.
  • She saw the demand for KTvuz Googleberg  in a higher force , the almighty stars:      
  • Dear Neelie, with such a "human resources" choice, I would expect a word or two about Mr. (I will most certainly not title him Dr.) Guttenbergs credibility. Especially why he has regained your credibility when he has lost his at least in Germany. Either there is complete lack of at least mediocre people for EU officials, or this choice has reasons that are hidden behind the curtain. For me, you severly damaged the credibility of the European Comission as trustworthy institution and there is no way you can regain it as long as this person is part of your team. kind regards,
  • Dear Neelie, just go. Give up your job and get lost. You're a complete failure, which you have amply proven with your latest fail by choosing that cheater and liar Guttenberg for a job for which he is not qualified in the least. You're a shame for the EU and for all of us. Go and ask your astrologers or any of the other idiots you apparently ask for advice, even they will tell you that this time your idiocy has gone too far. GO! OUT! We're fed up with people like you who make big bucks on the taxpayers' dime and don't have the faintest idea how to do the job they've been appointed to. People like you are the reason why so many citizens have no more faith in politicians and in the EU.
  • Have you ever thought how this nomination must hurt all the computer scientists in renowned European universities, who are both experts (and not just talents) in the Internet topic, and who have written their promotional thesis all by themselves, through hard labour, instead of stealing it from the Internet? Do you think you (!) can _ever_ enter a university again without beeing booed?
  • do we have 1. April? The thing with Gutenberg is a joke? a liar  !!
  • Hi, I hope that you consider to reverse your decision. It's ridiculous to chose such an untrusted person for such a job. Unfortunately, Mr. Guttenberg hasn't the standing to refrain from taking this job as well. From my point of view, this function won't be accepted in the european public. Regards
  • You asked for it. You shall receive. Expect us!
  • There is a video of that press conference on youtube: Strangely enough Mr Guttenberg seems to promote the very same infrastructure used in undemocratic countries for dual use in our (so called) democratic countries: How can anybody dare to call that a push for internet freedom? He seems to have not learned from the German discussion on blocking.  
  • Mr. Guttenberg copied the entire introduction of his PhD Thesis, and he *still denies* that he copied it by intent. Seriously, which talent do you need, not to know where the *first sentence* of your PhD thesis came from ? Do you need more of that kind of talent ?
  • in real life, con men and cheaters are being tried and punished - in Brussels and Strassbourg, they get promoted ("Dr." Silvana Koch) and awarded with recognition and , most probably, with well-paid consulting positions ("Dr." Googleberg). how about this instead: User Script Commands (Shift+0)X Global configuration
  • most stupid decision ever, my congrats!
  • You've got a weird sense of humour, Mrs. Kroes.
  • is being  a narcistic, upper nobility the right qualification for getting an influentual job in brussels? *omg .. i cant believe this* ... electing today is like casting pearls before swines.
  • This is why people hate the EU. Incompetent arogant ass holes falling the career steps up no matter how much they lie or act criminal. Putting Von Guttenberg in such a position is even for a conserverative a very bad move. It smeels terrible - please rethink your decision.
  • Dear Neelie, Geben Sie Text oder eine Website-Adresse ein oder lassen Sie ein Dokument übersetzen. Abbrechen Übersetzung von Deutsch nach Englisch You must be a humorous person, because that can only be a joke.
  • What a wise and brilliant decision! Karl Theodor is the Lichtgestalt of the german Politics, he is the greatest man i know in german politics. Thank you for bringing him back on the stage! Oh he is so brilliant, good looking and intelligent. This is wonderful.
  • Who is Gutenberg? I live in the future too, not the past.
  • you're kidding right? dr. copy and paste guttenberg? what happens to our world? abused by our leaders.. be ashamed of yourself
  • Atleast you have indeed hereby proven that there is no democrativ process in the EU. It's 1984 Doublethink at it's best: you say you chose Guttenberg for more Internet-Freedom - and he will be deploying a censorship-system. While he couldn't do that going through the german democratic process, he will now push for the whole EU. And you think that's not censorship, "'cause it's for the kids, eh", but also you wouldn't mind if there are some "misidentifications etc.". See? - Doublethink. He is just a boy acting in favor of the "elite", pushed into position like in a chess game - as he is just a figure for the crowd. The real actors are not to be seen, though hidden in plain sight. It really is obvious. Aks yourself, why would anyone need to have a censorship-system? Why would they need to press you in a form and filter anyone not fitting? Capitalism is crashing for good, big chance people realize the scam in the system and don't wan't it back. They may even hang the scammers. Scammers or Banksters or whatever.. money/power corrupted people (and the ones in charge of course) now really power up their defenses (mind control, as it worked so long to make people believe there is a way to pay back interest without "anotherone biting the dust".) - but the machine is already broken. It can't be fixed. You cannot reverse knowledge. Freedom can't be censored nor stopped. The beast weakens itself by it's own weight as it needs to feed a lot and fast. The feeding will stop.
  • Shame on you Mrs Kroes! This "distinguished Statesman" K.T Googleberg has not the required knowledge. One is NOT an expert for internet and communitions by being an expert in using ctrl + c and ctrl + v!!! Your decision is ridiculous! And again, shame on you!
  • So, a person who misused the "internet" to cobble together his PhD and who was forced out of office because people are still free to use the internet for research, publicity is suppossed to strengthen exactly that freedom? A person who is also associated with organisations and people fighting exactly against that kind of freedom is the right "talent" for this job? I am sure you could not have done yourself, the organisation and any other associated with the European Union a worse deal.
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