James Stanley

Please don't block Europe

Thu 13 September 2018

Yesterday the EU approved a "Copyright Directive", which includes a tax on linking to other websites, and mandatory upload filters on all user-submitted content, to prevent copyright infringement.

There were comments on HN about simply blocking all web traffic from Europe, examples from just one thread:

I wonder how long until companies outside of Europe decide it's easier just to block all traffic from Europe in protest.

I already hit error 451 when trying to read some local news in US when browsing from Europe (I don't remember name of the page now). This happened after GPDR came into effect.

I see no way to host any kind of content under such jurisdiction and surely all non European content providers would just block the EU rather then take on a task that even giants like facebook and google can barely manage.

Fuck it, block Europe entirely. See how quickly the politicians there crawl back on their knees when they cant use Facebook to see their grandkids pictures.

Please do not do this.

The idea is that blocking European internet users will make Europeans complain to their politicians so that eventually the law is changed, and everyone can go back to the way things were. Instead, let's just ignore the Directive. We don't need to allow politicians, who do such a rotten job of ruling the physical world, to apply the same methods to our virtual world.

The internet is humanity's first opportunity to create a free and open space where everybody in the world can communicate, collaborate, work, and trade with anyone anywhere, without prejudice, and without borders. Blocking traffic from Europe will only harm ordinary people in Europe. Discriminating against people from any jurisdiction (a la trade embargoes) is an unethical way to attain political goals, regardless of how noble those goals might be.

In 1996, John Perry Barlow wrote in A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace:

These increasingly hostile and colonial measures place us in the same position as those previous lovers of freedom and self-determination who had to reject the authorities of distant, uninformed powers. We must declare our virtual selves immune to your sovereignty, even as we continue to consent to your rule over our bodies. We will spread ourselves across the Planet so that no one can arrest our thoughts.

We will create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace. May it be more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before.

In many ways great progress has been made on this front. Since 1996, the proportion of the world with access to the internet has increased from 5% to 50%. The internet is one of the greatest liberators of people the world has ever seen. But we're in danger of moving backwards if we pay too much attention to what politicians are saying.

So instead of bowing to the demands of the Copyright Directive, and allowing politicians to insert themselves as rulers of a virtual world in which they're not welcome, or to create divisions between us where none need exist, let us simply ignore them. The internet doesn't respect borders (indeed, doesn't have borders) and we should make every effort to keep it that way. Please don't block Europe.

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