Report: ISPs Are the New Secret Police
Jennifer Baker writes on PC World:
More and more European Union member states are delegating online policing to private companies and Internet service providers, according to a report released Wednesday.
Where law enforcement agencies would traditionally have tackled the problem of illegal online content, more powers are being given to ISPs in the name of industry self-regulation, according to a study by the organization European Digital Rights (EDRI). That trend is likely to become stronger with increasing "extra-judicial sanctions" against consumers, EDRI said.
Proposed legislation and "non-binding guidelines" have left intermediaries in a precarious position, unsure whether they are liable for the actions of consumers over their networks. So-called "three strikes" laws, under which alleged copyright infringers receive three warnings before their Internet connection is cut off, put the onus on Internet service providers to police customers. Such laws currently appear in some form in French, Irish and U.K. legislation, where they have met with anger from ISPs. In France, the law can impose a fine and a one-year Internet connection suspension. The U.K.'s Digital Economy Act, adopted last year, provoked concern from the country's two largest ISPs, BT and TalkTalk.
International trade agreements such as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), and bilateral trade agreements the E.U. has signed with India and South Korea, all leave the door open for intermediary liability.