On Friday, the EU Commission published a piece on Medium that suggested that Google has taken over the minds of millions of citizens, rendering them incapable of thinking for themselves in their opposition of Article 13. The piece was later deleted with a note implying that people simply aren’t capable of understanding the subtle nuances of the English language.
Last week the European Parliament and European Council agreed on the final text of the EU Copyright Directive.
Supporters of Article 13 say this will lead to a better deal for the entertainment industries at the expense of Google’s YouTube, since it will have to obtain proper licenses for content uploaded to platform, while taking responsibility for infringing uploads.
Opponents, on the other hand, believe that the Article 13 proposals will be bad news for the Internet as a whole, since they have the potential to stifle free speech and expression, at the very least.
It’s important to note that Article 13 opponents come in all shapes and sizes, some more militant than others. However, last Friday the EU Commission took the ‘one size fits all approach’ by labeling every dissenting voice as being part of a “mob”, one groomed, misinformed and misled by Google.
Given that the Commission’s own Code of Conduct mandates that “both Commissioners and Commission staff are bound to act objectively and impartially”, the publication of the piece was a real surprise. That it also appeared to demean and devalue the public protests of millions of its own citizens bordered on the outrageous.
Proponents and opponents of any pending legislation should be free to undermine the position of their opponents by any legal, non-violent means, but this intervention by the EU seemed flat-out wrong. Taking sides in this way – even if the piece had been against Article 13 – is inappropriate at this stage of the game.
Before we published our report on Friday, a short discussion here at TF concluded that a record of the piece should be taken. None of us here believed it would stay up for long and it transpires that gut instinct was right. Visitors to the Medium page where the piece was published now see the following text;
The piece appears to have been removed (archive copy here) following a torrent of complaints on social media, with supporters of Article 13 incensed that they were essentially being told they hadn’t made up their own minds about the proposed legislation, but had become mindless zombies hypnotized by an insidious Google campaign.
Whether there is any truth to claims that Google is behind some kind of ‘bot’ campaign will be for future dissection but organizations like the EU Commission shouldn’t go around implying that voters are stupid. They’re allowed to think it (don’t we all to a degree?), but saying it is incredible.
Quite why this line was crossed is anyone’s guess but someone reasonably important sanctioned this piece and it would be nice to know who – and why.
What is even more bewildering is that the Commission is not sorry for what was written. The article was removed not because it was incorrect, but because the public apparently doesn’t have the capacity to understand it. Evidently, a simple update and clarification wouldn’t have been understood either, hence the deletion of the entire piece.
Mentioning SOPA in the same breath as Article 13 always raises hackles among entertainment industry groups because there are plenty of legitimate reasons why they want it to be forgotten. Now, seven years on, they might finally get their wish because what is happening now is arguably much more ugly. This could be the new benchmark, the new low.
Let’s be absolutely clear and honest here. In common with every political campaign in history, there has been misinformation on both sides of the Article 13 debate. In the middle, however, are genuine people who either want to protect their creative revenues or keep their Internet free and open
If the music industries and the EU want to take on the dominance of Google, then they should do so. If Google is found to have done wrong in this campaign, then it should face whatever is coming. That said, why do hundreds of millions of citizens have to be caught in the crossfire?
George Carlin said we should never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups. Or was that the EU Commission, I forget now.
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