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EU lawmaker accuses tech platforms of spreading ‘fake news’ about proposed copyright law

Axel Voss MEP, the rapporteur for the EU's proposed copyright law, has criticized "big platforms" over what he calls a "nice fake news campaign" about the proposed reforms.
by on 2nd July 2018

European Union MEP Axel Voss has accused tech platforms of creating a “fake news” campaign about the EU’s proposed Directive on copyright in the single market.

The proposed Directive has been subject to sustained criticism from online commentators concerned about the ramifications of some of its provisions.

On 20th June, the European Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI) approved the proposal by 14 votes to 9. One of the more contentious provisions is Article 11, which is colloquially referred to as the “link tax” provision. According to some commentators’ interpretations, the Article would require platforms to pay snippets of content.

Moreover, 70 internet experts, including the inventor of the WWW, Tim Berners-Lee, had previously sent an open letter to the President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, outlining their concerns about Article 13, which some online commentators have characterized as a provision that demands websites filter all uploaded content for copyright infringements.

According to an interview published on the EU Parliament’s website, which appears to have been automatically translated, Axel Voss states there’s currently “an extreme imbalance in the copyright system” and “everything is uploaded, but there’s no remuneration of the concerned author.”

He then goes on to criticize “big platforms” for spreading “fake news.”

“This ‘nice’ fake news campaign that is done by the big platforms, with key words such as ‘censor machine’ or upload filter, etc so that everybody jumps up without ever having done a reflection on our systematic we established here [sic].”

On whether users can still link to interesting content, he states, “Everybody that wants to create [a] link for a private purpose can continue to do so… but those who gain…money through this, by a commercial use, should ask if they can do it or not.”

Voss has previously argued that nowhere in the proposed Directive does it mention anything about “filtering” content. However, part of the concern among online commentators and internet campaigners is that the language is subjective, e.g. terminology like “effective technologies.”

According to recital 38(e) of the proposed Directive, “The measures taken by the online content sharing service providers to prevent the availability of unauthorised works or other subject-matter should be effective but remain proportionate, in particular with regard to the size of the online content sharing service provider.”

It then goes onto state, “While this Directive is expected to foster the development of effective technologies on the market, the availability of the measures may differ according to the type of content for which the measures are applied.”

Quite what “effective technologies” means is unclear. According to the aforementioned and self-proclaimed “internet pioneers,” it’s also unclear which platforms are required to comply with Article 13, and which are exempt. The group also contends the burden of regulation will also fall disproportionately on European SMEs and startups.

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