‘Clueless Politicians’ Propose European Great Firewall

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

The EU is proposing its own “great firewall” despite ongoing controversy over its Chinese counterpart

The European Union has proposed a “great firewall” to ring fence Europe and block ‘illicit contents’ on a continental scale.

The proposal came from a meeting the Council of the European Union’s Law Enforcement Work Party (LEWP), which is a forum designed to provide a co-operative approach to dealing with security issues such as fraud, customs, and counter terrorism.

The meeting actually took place back in February but it is only now that the contents of the meeting have registered and drawn comment.

Virtual Schengen Border

According to the minutes of the meeting, “the Presidency of the LEWP presented its intention to propose concrete measures towards creating a single secure European cyberspace, with a certain ‘virtual Schengen border’ and ‘virtual access points’ whereby the Internet Service Providers (ISP) would block illicit contents on the basis of the EU ‘black-list’.”

The virtual Schengen border’ reference in the text refers to the European treaty that allows for the freedom of movement within the EU, but which strictly controls entry to the European continental region.

The meeting took place under the Hungarian Presidency, but it has generated concern about open rights campaigners, who fear that Europe is heading towards a similar system used so controversially in mainland China.

In January the Chinese government boasted that its notorious “Great Firewall” had deleted 350 million pieces of ‘harmful information’. China of course strictly controls its citizens’ access to blogs, news websites and social networking services.

Clueless Politicians

The risk that a similar Chinese censorship could appear in Europe has drawn concern from open rights campaigners.

One such campaigner, Glyn Moody, said he was “staggered by the cluelessness of some politicians.”

“A big hint of that cluelessness is that these people are still using the term ‘cyberspace’ *seriously* in 2011, as is the fact that they actually think it’s possible to create a ‘single secure European cyberspace’ with ‘virtual borders’ and ‘virtual access points’.” Moody wrote on his blog. “They only have to look at how porous the Great Firewall of China is – something that has been created and honed by experts with huge resources.”

“Finally, they seem completely oblivious of the implications of their daft ‘plan’: the imposition of Europe-wide censorship,” he added. “Again, the fact that ‘blacklists’ (a) don’t work and (b) are always flawed is obviously not something the twits in Brussels have quite appreciated. But even if they did work, it’s outrageous that the European Union can be contemplating their use without even the slightest twinge of conscience.”