EU articles harm free speech



Opinion columnist Sam King writes about the recent EU Articles 11 and 13 and the impact they would have on the United States in addition to Europe.

SAM KING, Opinion Columnist

While I’m happy to see some of the social media drama over Twitter dying down, there’s now an equally bad issue affecting the internet this week. It seems like we have traded one problem for another.

I’m talking about the recent votes in the European Union (EU) over Article 11 and the infamous Article 13. These have slipped under most American’s noses since this is a ruling in Europe. However, these rulings, especially Article 13, will affect us here in the U.S. If Article 13 sounds something like some dastardly cartoon villain would create to mess with us, you wouldn’t be far off. It’s about as bad as it sounds.

Allow me to explain these two articles before I start talking about their impacts. First, we have Article 11. This article can simply be summed up by calling it a “link tax.” Article 11 dictates that any platform that shares or posts article headlines will have to pay a tax to the news publisher they shared the article from. According to Quartz, that means whenever Google posts a link to say, a BBC article, Google must now pay BBC anytime they post one of their links.

This may not sound bad right off the bat, but it quickly causes problems because it makes it harder for news to be distributed. Google has dealt with similar problem before in Spain when they passed virtually the same law. Google decided not to play ball and simply pulled Google News from Spain. As a result, almost all Spanish news sites lost traffic and some even folded completely.

Another similar situation happened in Germany where they established a link tax. A few German publishers sued Google over publishing their links without a license. Google in response stopped publishing their articles to avoid getting sued. As a result, traffic to those news sites drastically decreased to the point where they dropped the charges and allowed Google to publish their links (ZDnet).

Basically, Article 11 taxes Google and other platforms for sharing news. This demotivates the platforms to share news from outlets that want this enforced. This can quickly devolve into publishers being afraid to use this new article in fear of losing traffic. If that is what happens, then nothing will change on the internet.

Now, what might change the internet significantly is what Article 13 proposes to do. This law can be summed up by calling it a “upload filter.” Article 13 dictates that websites like Facebook and YouTube will have to scan every piece of data uploaded to their website to make sure there is no copyrighted content in the upload (Verge).

This may not seem too bad, as sites like YouTube will already take down videos that infringe on copyrights. Article 13 is different from this. Instead of rights holders being able to go to YouTube and targeting a particular video, this filter will be applied universally to every single video on YouTube. That means everything from movie reviews to  plays could never have a chance at being published.

Worse still, this also sets the grounds for censorship at a mass scale. Every single video on YouTube going through a mass filter can easily be abused and there would be no way for consumers to know. Someone could make a video reviewing a movie and the company in hold of the rights could stop that video from being published solely because the reviewer was talking about the movie.

This also creates a burden for smaller websites. YouTube would have the money and size to create a massive filter, but what would smaller websites do? Many wouldn’t have the money or expertise to make it happen. As a result, they would have to stay away from all copyrighted content or just give up.

These may be EU rulings, but they still affect the world. YouTube might be able to spare non-Europeans from the massive filter. However, if you’re a company or a content creator, don’t expect to reach Europe as a market. Your video might be available in the US and other countries, but it could easily get blocked in Europe.

This will affect everyone. These articles assault people’s free speech and creative abilities. Ironically, I hardly see anyone raising flags about these articles that could censor people on a global scale, but I still see people being upset that Twitter is enforcing its rules over online harassment.

I can’t understand why the EU decided to stomp on people’s ability to be creative and speak freely. Any content creator living under the EU’s rulings would have to deal with the virtual nightmare of wondering what the government will allow them to make content about.

I sincerely hope these rulings change or are not used to their full effectiveness. We’ll have to wait and see.