Pornhub Joins Reddit, Wikipedia to Protest EU Copyright Directive

With a vote scheduled for next Tuesday on the controversial, and restrictive, new European Union Copyright Directive, which explained last October, the free porn mega-site Pornhub joined two other online giants using their sites to register their protest against the new law—and encourage visitors to the sites to pressure EU lawmakers to vote it down.

Pornhub posted a banner at the top of the European version of its site on Thursday, as seen in the image at the top of this page. The discussion forum Reddit—the self-described “front page of the internet”—and the sprawling online encyclopedia Wikipedia also protested the planned new law, according to a Business Insider report

Reddit flashed error messages every time a user inside the EU attempted to upload a file on Thursday, while Wikipedia completely blocked its site to users in several EU countries, including Germany and Denmark, Business Insider reported.

To be clear, however, any EU “directive” is not a binding law. But the EU’s 28 member countries are expected to implement the directive by passing their own internal laws to line up with the directive’s requirements. According to The Electronic Frontier Foundation, while most of the new copyright directive—the first since 2001—is technical and non-controversial, two “articles” have caused a political and online earthquake, and could drastically change how Europeans use the internet.

As detailed in an earlier report, Article 11 would impose a “link tax,” requiring sites such as Google News and other aggregators to pay a fee for linking to outside articles, if the linking site reprints more than a "snippet" of the original, linked article. 

But as EFF notes, the EU directive does not define what constitutes a “snippet,” leaving that up to individual countries to decide. The law also contains no protection for smaller sites, such as personal blogs, or noncommercial sites including Wikipedia. 

Among numerous other chilling effects on digital speech, Article 11 further consolidates the control of online news and information in the hands of giant corporate content providers, EFF says, “because giant companies will license the right to link to each other but not to smaller sites, who will not be able to point out deficiencies and contradictions in the big companies' stories.”

The second and even more controversial provision, Article 13, requires sites to take full responsibility for copyright violations—or alleged violations—by users on their sites. The provision would force social media sites such as Facebook and YouTube to monitor their entire networks 24/7 for possible violations.

That requirement will—and already has, says EFF—lead the sites to deploy “content filters,” that is, algorithms that scan relentlessly for possible copyright violations. Not only does the requirement discriminate against smaller sites, because, EFF says, “all but the crudest filters cost so much that only the biggest tech companies can afford to build them,” but there’s also the well-known fact that algorithms in general are far from perfect. As has reported, the algorithm used by Tumblr to enforce its recent porn ban regularly scoops up content that is not porn at all.

“Filters are notoriously inaccurate, prone to overblocking legitimate material—and lacking in checks and balances, making it easy for censors to remove material they disagree with,” EFF wrote—noting also that copyright filters operate on the assumption that “people who claim copyrights are telling the truth,” opening the door to freelance censorship and blocking by bad actors who falsely claim “copyright” over material they do not own.

Photo by European Digital Rights Twitter