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Thousands protest against controversial EU internet law claiming it will enable online censorship

Key Points
  • Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets across Germany last weekend to challenge a new European Union copyright law set to be passed this week.
  • Protesters fear the law could lead to online censorship and limit free speech.
  • Proponents say the rules would level the playing field for artists, publishers and news outlets.
BERLIN, GERMANY - MARCH 23: Protesters rally against proposed upload filters that they claim will restrict Internet freedom on March 23, 2019 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Michele Tantussi/Getty Images)
Michele Tantussi | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets across Germany last weekend to challenge a new European Union copyright law set to be passed this week.

The protesters, marching under the slogan "Save your Internet," fear the EU Copyright Directive, which aims to modernize copyright rules for the digital era, could lead to online censorship and restrict freedom of speech.

AP, citing local German media, said 40,000 people marched in protest of the law in Munich on Saturday. Other protests in Hamburg, Dusseldorf and Berlin included more than one thousand attendees according to the events' Facebook pages.

European lawmakers are scheduled to vote on the final text of the directive Tuesday.

The news rules aim to protect artists, publishers and news outlets by putting limitations on big tech companies that distribute content. One controversial proposal would give news publications the ability to negotiate commercial licenses with platforms like Google News in order to post their articles.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said in the past the rules would ensure journalists, publishers and authors are "paid fairly for their work."

Another contentious proposal of the directive requires platforms like YouTube to remove illegal content with automatic filters. Critics fear these filters will inhibit free speech and give tech companies too much control over content.

Tech companies including Google and Twitter have lobbied aggressively against the law, arguing it hurt smaller publishers online and limit freedom of information online.

"Companies that act reasonably in helping rights holders identify and control the use of their content shouldn't be held liable for anything a user uploads, any more than a telephone company should be liable for the content of conversations," Google's Senior Vice President of global affairs Kent Walker wrote in a blog post in February.

More than 5 million people have signed a petition against the law on Change.org, arguing it puts the freedom of the internet in "danger."

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