European Parliament Legalized Censorship in Europe Today; Pirate Rep Voted Against

Today, the European Parliament voted on whether to introduce web censorship with the intention of combating child pornography. The Pirate Party representative was one of only two representatives who voted against it. The censorship passed.

When it comes to child pornography, the subject is so stigmatized that people are expected to give up any of their other duties to fight it, regardless of whether the methods are even effective and proportionate. I am not prepared to give up the duty of defending the European Convention on Human Rights, reporters’ rights to protect their sources, freedom of speech, the presumption of innocence, and due process of law. Neither is our Member of European Parliament. Unfortunately, all but one of the others were.

In particular, the debate quickly turns dishonest. If you are opposing legislation claimed to fight child pornography, the finger is immediately pointed at you for defending child pornography and suggesting you maybe even like it. That kind of behavior is detestable, dishonest and deliberately misleading. It is perfectly possible and even quite reasonable to detest both censorship and child pornography alike, and consider neither phenomenon to be allowable in the slightest.

First, the problems with the proposal. We know that censorship is bad on all accounts; we learned that centuries ago. Changing a law that has existed for centuries, like allowing gay marriage or legalizing marijuana, is no big deal from a legislative perspective. However, changing the legal framework — as in changing the rules for admission of evidence or restricting free speech — is a huge deal. That is what’s being done here. One law is pitted against the entire legal framework, as if they stood on equal grounds. And the framework of free speech just lost.

To be honest, the text of the bill has improved somewhat. Its text used to say that member states shall censor web pages containing such material, whereas the new text says that they may do it, after first having tried to shut down the server. Still, there is no presumption of innocence, and no judicial oversight whatsoever. Not even a prosecutor is involved in effecting the censorship, much less a judge. If you were to be censored tomorrow, you would be rightsless; there would be no way for anybody to verify that there was nothing bad on your site, there would just be a governmental claim that there was.

A civilization is judged not by its efficiency of law and order, but by the rights it gives to its worst enemies to defend themselves against accusations of breaking that law.

Unfortunately — and this really enrages me — much of this censorship is not driven by interest for children in the slightest. The German group MOGiS, for example, which is a child abuse survivor group, is completely against any kind of censorship. Their motto is “crimes should be punished and not hidden”. Rather, a lot of it is driven by the copyright industry who use child pornography as a shameless battering ram to introduce censorship against “other crimes”, specifically violations of their copyright monopoly, in the next stage. I am not making this up; it is an explicit strategy from the copyright lobby.

In other words, just to spell it out, the copyright lobby is spending millions and millions pushing for legislation that explicitly hides egregious crimes against children just so they can restrict freedom of speech and introduce censorship to protect their neomercantilistic monopolies. There are no words that meet my level of contempt for this.

We saw one example of this in the news yesterday, as British Telecom was ordered by a court to use their child porn filter to protect the copyright monopolies and censor the site Newzbin2. There you have it, right there.

Going back to the legislation in the European Parliament today, there are many other problems with it. It criminalizes not only real child abuse, but also fictious art that can be viewed as depicting child abuse, even if it never happened. Seeing a silly drawing of Lisa Simpson engaged in a sexual act, or even that interpretation of the London 2012 Olympics logo, could brand you as a sex offender. Does that make sense to you? As in, really? What this does is load the truck of this real problem with legislation filled with ridicule, mockery and disproportionateness — and quite deserving of it, too. Yes, child abuse is a real problem. So let’s not fill it with mockery.

Also, a number of dogmatic pressure groups are using the stigmatization on this subject to push their religious morale down the throats of others. I can’t speak for how the fundamentalist Christian group ECPAT behaves outside of Sweden, but in this country, they are deliberately trying to confuse the concepts of lawful, healthy sex after the age of consent (15) with child abuse, using the abuse of small children as a weapon against healthy teenagers to give them a sense of shame and guilt for what teenagers always do as they come of age. That’s about as low as one can sink, in my eyes, and this group has a lot of say in the legislation on the matter. ECPAT has taken this so far in Sweden that you can now be jailed for possessing naked photos of yourself from before 18 years of age, as keeping those photos of yourself “violates children as a community”, in their view — which made it into legislation.

Seriously. We all detest and abhor child abuse. But do you think this — this — really makes any sense?

At the end of the day, I wish somebody would indeed think of the children and their future civil liberties, instead of using defenseless children for furthering their own bottom line or dogma.

The censorship proposal was carried with 541 votes against 2, with 31 abstentions. Christian Engström, Pirate MEP, has more.

Rick Falkvinge

Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. He lives on Alexanderplatz in Berlin, Germany, roasts his own coffee, and as of right now (2019-2020) is taking a little break.


  1. HugeHedon

    Rick: fire-suit on! Comment field: let’s burn the guy!

    No, seriously, well done. Please report who the other MP that voted against was.

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      Thanks. I don’t know who the other MEP was yet; I expect that will be published on some time tomorrow.

      I wanted to publish this in English, crossing the language barrier, before that happened. We’ve already sent press releases in Swedish.


      1. Jerry

        It was Kohlíček who voted against it too. Here are the votes: (page 4 and 5)

        1. Rick Falkvinge

          Thanks, Jerry!

  2. Putte

    Get moral panics out of political decision making and the public debate.

  3. Ninja (@icanhazsake)

    Sad day. So we get a Great United Stats Firewall in the “talks” and a Great Firewall of Europe in the making. All for the children. I guess I’m not making any kids as I planned, I don’t think the little ones deserve the rotten world the human being scraps (or pieces of shit) are building for us all. Thank you, politicians and ppl in power, thank you for making this world slightly worse to live in =)

    1. slob100

      hey Ninja! Even if everything is as author said, that shouldn’t stop you raising your own kids !!! comon… with the Internet censorship or without, you had to admit and recognize that we are living in the best world ever (historicaly). Our duty is to make it better, but also not to neglect the gift we’ve been given !

  4. steelneck

    sed s/intention/excuse/

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      +1, as usual

  5. […] European Parliament has voted to legalize web censorship across Europe. Only the Pirate Party rep and one other voted against.… […]

  6. Scary Devil Monastery

    In Sweden where we have the precursor of this legislation we’ve already seen the effects. In particular a bizarre case some twenty-odd women were involved with one man in what could only be described as a child pornography ring.

    Although the case does seem to describe a genuine pedophile ring, one aspect in particular ran a bitter chill down my spine: One of the women had forwarded the man a photograph of her grandchildren. A perfectly ordinary photograph of undressed children at a beach – of the same type i’d be very surprised if anyone who is a parent doesn’t have of their own children.

    The problem is that in essence, since someone looked at these images from an erotic point of view the images in question were classed as child pornography by the court, and the woman in question was sentenced under the child pornography law.

    Although giving images of children to a known pedophile is reprehensible to say the least, the ramifications of the ruling hit me very hard.

    Imagine everyone who today possesses digital photographs of an ex-partner when he or she was below the age of 18. That person will most certainly always look at such a picture from a sexual point of view. According to the law, then anyone possessing a picture of a person of old boy- or girlfriends from their youth is today guilty of child pornography, no matter which way you slice it.

    The picture doesn’t even have to be of an erotic pose or in an undressed form – all that is required is that someone has the ability to view it from a sexual point of view.

    Someone please tell me I’m wrong here.

    And that’s more or less what we are now going to implement on a european level? If so we’ve just implemented the thought crime. The determination that a person may view an image in a certain way goes well above and beyond what we can reasonably call criminal intent.

    1. SEMW

      > Someone please tell me I’m wrong here.

      Yup, you’re wrong here. The image must be either of “for primarily sexual purposes” (exception: unless it’s “a child engaged in real or simulated sexually explicit conduct”) to be classified as child pornography.

      1. Rick Falkvinge

        Actually, SEMW, it is you who are in the wrong. We have seen the exact excuse for censorship you line up here many times, and then the courts read the law to the letter as it is written. See below for more.

      2. Scary Devil Monastery

        I think I’m not that wrong.

        Basically the woman in question did a silly thing – she sent pictures of her grandchildren who happened to be naked. The same type of imagery almost everyone has of themselves when young, playing in sand or on summer vacation.

        Those images were then directly classified as child pornography as a man masturbated to them. Whereupon the images themselves were immediately reclassified as child pornography, irrespective of ownership. Take note that in this case the woman got struck down under the law of possesion for images of her own grandchildren which were apparently not anything special. Until someone else treated them as sex objects.

        The way I read it this means in theory that images of myself when i’m 9, dressed or not, would be considered child pornography and both me and my parents punished for possessing them if anyone ever watched those pictures with sexual intent.

        Hence my question – if someone with a better knowledge of actual law would answer I’d be much obliged. What you refer to is disproven already in the court case mentioned.

        1. SEMW

          > What you refer to is disproven already in the court case mentioned.

          Let me see if I understand your logic. You’re claiming that the “primarily sexual purposes” requirement in the directive that I referred to — that was copied and pasted directly from the directive — is ‘disproved’ by a court case that took place under a *completely different law* (already-existing Swedish law:[1]).

          A Swedish law that, unlike the directive, does *not* have the “primarily sexual purposes” language.

          Sorry, no. Law doesn’t work like that.

          > if someone with a better knowledge of actual law would answer..

          I linked to you to the actual text of the directive. Here it is again: [2]. Stop being lazy and read the damn thing for yourself.



          1. Scary Devil Monastery

            I’ve read it and what you seem to miss is that the law doesn’t state for whom the picture must have a primarily sexual use.

            The wording of “primarily sexual purposes” is the key phrase in both the swedish law and the EU directive. It basically says that whether the “child” is clothed, posing in an erotic manner, or just standing on a damn field in full dress holding a bouquet of flowers is irrelevant as long as someone has used the image for primarily sexual purposes.

            In the court case I referred to, a woman was judged guilty of possession of child pornography because she possessed a family picture of her grandchildren. That image was completely legal, according to the ruling up until the point where a man admitted he’d masturbated to it.

            From that point onwards, that picture was classified as child pornography and not only the man masturbating to the image but the initial owner of the picture (for whom the image held absolutely no sexual connotation) became illegal child pornography.

            Following the reasoning by the court in that ruling, if someone masturbates to a picture of you as a 17-year old, you are guilty of child pornography if the picture in question is also in your possession.

            That is why I’m looking for someone with a smattering of practical law to answer regarding the ruling. I’ve read this law from one side to the other and can myself only come to the conclusion that Tingsrättens reasoning regarding the law is actually correct, in which case the ramifications are staggering. Any image of a 17-year old or younger, no matter how innocent, becomes child pornography as long as anyone else chooses to use the picture as erotic material.

            The EU directive seems to even take it a step further as the definition of what constitutes a child is even more open to interpretation.

  7. SEMW

    This is somewhat misleading. For example:

    > Still, there is no presumption of innocence, and no judicial oversight whatsoever.
    > Not even a prosecutor is involved in effecting the censorship, much less a judge.

    I’m not sure you understand what a directive is. It isn’t a law itself, it’s an instruction to member states to implement a law; giving them a degree of freedom as to how to implement it. The directive doesn’t specify the process the member state should implement to remove websites, only that it should have one. That process might well involve a judge, a prosecutor, or otherwise; that’s up to the member state.

    To quote the introductory notes from the directive: “…the measures undertaken by Member States in accordance with this directive in order to remove or, where appropriate, block websites containing child pornography could be based on various types of public action, such as legislative, non-legislative, judicial or other…”.

    The EU directive certainly does *not* require that the process be a purely executive one; nor does it (or can it) give the state any powers to implement such a process that it wouldn’t have been able to give itself through the usual process of legislation particular to the state.

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      I am reusing my response from Reddit here:

      Dear SEMW,

      I work as an assistant in the European Parliament. I was the party leader of the party at the time of the European Elections. Rest assured that I understand the fundamentals of European legislation.

      You will note that the article focuses on what the Parliament just legalized, and it does legalize blocking (censorship) based on those types of action, including where there is no judicial oversight, as you quote yourself.

      1. SEMW

        [For the sake of not having a parallel discussion in two forums, interested readers can follow the discussion on reddit at ].

  8. El Parlament Europeu legalitza la censura a internet

    […] Rick Falkvinge, fundador del primer Partit Pirata. Publicat al seu blog el 27 d’octubre de […]

  9. Rick

    Of course you are right. But I have two OT questions. No answer expected, possible, or even relevant at this extent of betrayal.

    1. Why did you not support Julian Assange more?
    2. Why did you give in to the LGBT faction in the party you created?

  10. Sten

    “I can’t speak for how the fundamentalist Christian group ECPAT behaves outside of Sweden”

    Is there any truth to this? Is Ecpat at all fundamentalist Christian?
    I thought the member base is made up of many different organisations such as Farmaciförbundet, HRF – Hotell och Restaurang Facket, SRF – Svenska Resebyråföreningen, Vårdförbundet and yes there are many religious members as well. But would this make ECPAT fundamentalist? Don´t think so.

    If you know something about ECPAT in Sweden or internationally that would deem them fundamentalist christian, please do publish that information.

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      It is two descriptions, not one. “Christian” and “fundamentalist”, not “Christian fundamentalist”. I believe “fundamentalist” has already been shown in the article, so I go on to show “Christian”:

      It is based on Christian norms, which shows in their history: They are a spin-off from ECTWT, Ecumenical Coalition on Third-World Tourism. There you have it, the religious heritage is right in the parental organization’s very name. (The Wikipedia specifically mentions them as the parental organization of ECPAT.)

      If you want indications that this still applies, Thomas Bodström was recruited from Broderskaparna (the Christian Social Democrats) to become its chairman.

      1. Sten

        I did not write “Christian fundamentalist” I wrote fundamentalist Christian.

        No, you have absolutley not in your text proven that they are fundamentalist, you claim that someone can go to prison for possesing nude shots of them selves, thist is your claim and not proof of anything.

        As for a possible relation between two organisation, and yet another claim, that this would deem ECPAT fundamentalist is nothing but your version of guilt by association.

        Especially when it seem as if your claims stem from this text;

        ECPAT påstås av IT-debattören Oscar Swartz vara en utbrytarorganisation från ECTWT (Ecumenical Coalition against Third-World Tourism), som han menar är en kristen organisation som generellt motsätter sig bland annat globalisering, modernisering och turism från rika länder till fattigare.[10] Enligt ECTWT:s webbplats är ECTWT en sammanslutning av 70 organisationer, varav några är kristna medan andra är sekulära, och syftet är att motverka rika länders exploatering av fattiga länder, vilket 1990 ledde till att ECPAT bildades inte som en utbrytargrupp utan för att specifikt motverka sexturism.[12] Enligt ECPAT Internationals webbplats var ECTWT snarare en av flera grupper som under 1980-talet uppmärksammade problemet med barnsexturism. ECPAT bildades som resultatet av en ökande medvetenhet om problemet, och inte som någon slags “utbrytarorganisation”.[13]

  11. […] Falkvinge: To be honest, the text of the bill has improved somewhat. Its text used to say that member states […]

  12. […] week: from making the most of our cultural heritage digitally to digital piracy to the politics of free speech and censorship. Institutional politics are never far behind, though: Barroso has responded to questions over the […]

  13. […] ist eine Übersetzung1 des Blogposts von Rick Falkvinge vom 27. Oktober 2011. Kommentare meinerseits sind mit [..] […]

  14. Tänk om Internet inte fanns? « Full Mental Straightjacket

    […] Även i Europa går vi mot en ökad censur och kontroll av Internet och med den nuvarande utvecklingen i Europa, USA och många andra länder så kommer snart en händelse som Arab Spring inte längre vara möjlig att genomföra. Ett av mänsklighetens starkaste verktyg för yttrandefrihet och demorkati kommer göras tandlöst för att gynna vinstintressen och kortsiktiga politiska vinster. […]

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