Core internet values: Link tax and upload filtering, friction and core values

14 Nov 2018 09:00h - 10:00h

Event report

[Read more session reports and live updates from the 13th Internet Governance Forum]

The session underlined that the Dynamic Coalition should strengthen its efforts to promote the core values of the Internet. It should explain to the public the dangers of regulating content by regulating the underlying technologies. Link tax and the upload filter are attempts at solving the social problems with regulating technology. This categorical error by the governments should be avoided.  

The session Moderator, Mr Olivier Crépin-Leblond, European Regional At-Large Organisation, ICANN, and Internet Society UK, noted that the Dynamic Coalition on Core Internet Values aims to protect the principles of interoperability, openness, decentralisation, packet switching, layered architecture, scalability, and robustness. Currently, the coalition is focused on developments that might go against these core values and alter the nature of the global network. He asked the speakers to comment on the impact of the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Copyright Directive, in particular Articles 11 and 13. He stressed that the GDPR breaks the principle of layered architecture of the Internet, as it demands geographical control over the transit of packets on the network. This violates end-to-end systems and forces layers crossing which negatively impacts openness and decentralisation. ‘The concept of layered architecture is not well understood globally’, he remarked. Despite these issues, the GDPR does reinforce some core values such as privacy and a human-centric Internet.

Ms Desiree Miloshevic, Internet Society, UK, spoke about Article 11, commonly known as the ‘link tax’. She agreed that the GDPR is valuable as it sets the highest standards of regulation yet, and keeps data in machine-readable form, ensuring the principle of interoperability. The difficulty of the GDPR lies in its extra-territoriality. If every government regulated as much as this, it would become a nightmare for compliance. Moving to the link tax, she said that while it protects the notion of copyright, implementation remains difficult. It refers only to companies, which would have to pay a fee for hosting content, but it is not yet precise enough as to how the URL will fit into this regulation. Miloshevic stressed that the issue is that it might break the decentralisation principle as it affects the possibility of getting numerous outlets of information. The danger is that all the data provisions might become concentrated only in the in the hands of the content providers which can actually afford the costs of the breaking the regulations. 

Mr Diego Naranjo, European Digital Rights (EDRi), tackled the issues around Article 13 of the Copyright Directive known as the ‘upload filter’. While author’s rights need to be protected, this regulation threatens to break into the accessibility principle with the end result of filtering everything. The 2016 Copyright Directive introduced great changes in the reliability of platforms and directly impacted the core values of the Internet. It made platforms directly liable in order to take away some of their leverage. The response of the platforms however might be in over-purging more of the content in order to avoid regulation breaches. The upload filters have already shown issues as algorithms are not good in regulating free speech online: they cannot recognise parody and often take down legal content. Naranjo invited the community to revolt against the breach of the core values and to visit the to get more information.

Mr Andrew Sullivan, CEO, Internet Society, agreed with the remarks of the other speakers, and pointed out that core values should not be political. Interoperation is a key aspect here because it means operation across all parts of the network. While regulation can bring good things, it also causes a fundamental problem. Governments should not aim to regulate the technical layer and the underlying technology, thus damaging interoperability, in order to solve a societal problem. Sullivan emphasised that the Internet cannot be regulated in a centralised, top-down manner. He termed this the ‘category error.’ The critical step forward is to make governments understand that the legislation they propose, and the mechanisms they use, are actually harmful to the end goal. 

Questions from the audience were raised on whether the GDPR is beneficial to big companies as only they can afford the breaches, while at the same time lobbying to prevent it. Some views were expressed that the Internet governance community should inform the public more about these issues, as only the public can impact governments in a proper way. In relation to copyright regulation, the probable scenario is that smaller companies will have to buy licenses – from Google for example.


By Jana Mišić