The European Union voted for a sweeping piece of legislation that will change the internet as users on the Continent know it. But as European Parliament members discuss the directive’s final wording, Google took the opportunity to issue a warning so users would better understand what this new legislation could do.
According to Google, the directive could completely wipe the internet clean.
Because the Copyright Directive gives news publishers the right to charge for search engines to use snippets of their stories, Google can’t show snippets without purchasing licenses. So if the rule goes into effect, European users may end up searching for something online, only to find nothing but an empty search-results page. After all, Google would much rather omit snippets than pay for licenses to show results from every single publisher.
Another potential result of this type of law is that Google may end up distorting the results users get simply because it would prefer to pay big publishers for their content. This means that independent and smaller publishers would be completely silenced.
As the company’s VP of news, Richard Gingras, wrote recently, this would put Google in the position of picking winners and losers.
“Online services, some of which generate no revenue (for instance, Google News) would have to make choices about which publishers they’d do deals with,” Gingras wrote. “Presently, more than 80,000 news publishers around the world can show up in Google News, but Article 11 would sharply reduce that number.”
If anything, this piece of news should send chills down the spine of anyone who takes freedom of speech seriously.
But this new rule would not only menace people seeking different narratives when it comes to the news, but it would also be a problem for businesses.
To marketing professionals in Europe, the Copyright Directive would severely impact their ability to help clients reach their audience. In an age when everyone uses search engines to find service providers or to consume news, European business would be in grave danger.
Leave the Internet Alone
With the European Parliament, Commission, and Council holding closed-door meetings to finalize the bill’s wording, activists are urging Europeans who are worried about their freedom of speech to pressure their representatives to take a stand against the Copyright Directive.
As explained by The Verge, if the European Council passes the legislation on Jan. 18, the final negotiation between the parliament and council will take place on Jan. 21, pushing the final vote to March. By 2021, the directive would then have to be implemented as law by all EU nations. Thankfully, activism prompted by the strong criticism the bill received is helping to change the narrative, and EU members are starting to voice their opposition to the bill.
As the Electronic Frontier Foundation explained, over 4 million Europeans signed a petition against the Copyright Directive’s censorship of independent news outlets. With European leaders in the entertainment, news, and sports industries also joining the fight against the bill, the message is clear: leave the internet alone.
The European Union has long ignored what people want, by imposing rules that have alienated European citizens. With the discontent only growing, we could soon witness a major change in how Europeans see the union and its power over them. And the idea of Brexit could soon spread across the Continent.
One thing is for sure: European states would be free to set their own rules if there wasn’t a European Union. And it’s because power would be decentralized that people’s freedom, especially on the internet, would be better protected.