In this article, I will try to explain what’s the fuss surrounding Article 13 and why some people farewelled the internet as we know it.
In September, with 438 votes in favor, 226 against and 39 abstentions, European Parliament approved what critics claim to be the end of the internet. Unfortunately, these concerns didn’t seem to bother the members of EP and even the slightest attempts to make the directive suited for the XXI century were rejected.
Controversial Articles 11 and 13, respectively, the ‘hyperlink tax’ and the ‘upload filter,’ received the most attention:
- Article 11 means digital platforms have to pay publishers when they reproduce articles. For example, if you post a link on Facebook from some news website, the website can charge Facebook because it allows snippets. Similar laws have been adopted in Spain and Germany and proved to be ineffective.
- Under Article 13 internet service providers that share user-generated content (text, videos, pictures, games, sounds, codes, etc.), are required to scan if the piece is copyrighted. Basically, Article 13 means companies will have to implement automated AI algorithms to filter every upload to their website. In case something gets past the algorithms, the platforms will face copyright liabilities.
Opponents of Article 13 aren’t against creators
Indeed, digital security professionals appreciate attempts to prevent personal data abuse and support the idea of a fair distribution of revenues from online use of copyright works. However, Article 13 can’t be counted in as a positive effort.
In theory this might sound like a good deal – finally, somebody’s found a way to protect creators. Especially, after some of the authors’ organizations and even famous people like Paul McCartney expressed their support for Article 13.
However, seems like they lack technical knowledge and aren’t aware of potential consequences.
Algorithms make mistakes. There’s no ‘magical’ algorithm which can suddenly stop content creators from being ripped off. Machines can’t determine context, satire, and fair use from violations, that’s why get ready for errors, censorship and internet trolls thinking of new ways to use Article 13 for pranks.
Testing Article 13
Let’s talk numbers. Internet-security evangelist Alec Muffett managed to show all of the dangers with one simple test. He wrote up a ‘false positive’ emulator to show how much of impact Article 13 would have. It tested 10 million events with a test that was 99.5% accurate, with a rate of 1 in 10 000 items actually being bad.’
Therefore, to catch 1 000 pieces of infringing content, the filters would miscategorize 50 000 pieces of legitimate content as ‘bad.’
Muffett’s test isn’t a new concern. A group including internet pioneer Vint Cerf, the inventor of the World Wide Web Tim Berners-Lee, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, cryptography expert Bruce Schneier, and others, last summer issued an open letter warning about the consequences of the Copyright Directive. It read: ‘The impact of Article 13 would also fall heavily on ordinary users of Internet platforms—not only those who upload music or video (frequently in reliance upon copyright limitations and exceptions, that Article 13 ignores), but even those who contribute photos,text, or computer code to open collaboration platforms such as Wikipedia and GitHub.’
Moreover, the group reminded when Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition wrote that ‘obliging specific platforms to apply technology that identifies and filters all the data of each of its users before the upload on the publicly available services is contrary to Article 15 of the InfoSoc Directive as well as the European Charter of Fundamental Rights.’
There have been attempts to implement automated AI filters to scan uploads on the websites, but they failed.
Youtube is one of the major examples. An army of employees and automated content recognition system scans every upload. Unfortunately, even this system which costs the company millions of dollars have many cracks and errors. There have been cases of accidentally blocked educational videos from MIT, white noise or birds singing.
Smaller platforms won’t be able to afford similar systems, while bigger companies like Google or Facebook will continue monopolizing the market.
Long story short, Article 13 will affect how you surf the internet every day. Either you become a master in getting around the filters, or get used to filters miscategorizing whatever you’re trying to share. Just to be clear, your Tinder or Facebook picture can be blocked if you’re wearing a t-shirt with a copyrighted image. And, in case you feel like quoting Shakespeare, under Article 13 you may not be able to do so.
Reddit recently blocked their platform in the EU for a day “to make sure the European Parliament doesn’t turn this restriction into reality“.
Youtube’s CEO Susan Wojcicki warned that the platform may have to begin blocking videos in response to Article 13.
The internet was built on ideas of the free flow of information. The founding fathers of the internet we use every day have spoken and warned us all. After the final vote in January 2019, individual EU member states will have to implement the Directive.
Luckily, there are things you can do to prevent this from happening. In case you want to take action, HERE you’ll find the information on what to do next.
This article was originally published: October 16, 2018
Updated: November 23, 2018