Saturday, March 23, 2019

The end of the Internet

The Internet, the greatest wonder of the modern world, billions of people electronically connected through computers, smartphones and miriad of electronic devices, in it's short life the Internet has evolved into a virtual universe where you can have your own little place, be it on a social network, homepage or a blog and where you can say what you want and share your opinion freely with the whole world.
Did I say freely? That could soon be history, that's the impression many users across the Internet are having now. The reason is called 'Article 13', a copyright reform that proposes the use of 'upload filters' to check the users's content before it is uploaded to a website.

What does it all mean? In a nutshell it means If the content the user is uploading contains copyrighted material, the filter won't allow it to be uploaded and/or published.
While the European Union hopes this way to strengthen the rights of authors, many critics and users see it as a censorship and a violation of freespech.

Should article 13 be validated, we can already say goodbye to what has become a lifestyle and the reason for endless laughs, discussions and shitstorms on countless websites: memes.
Why will memes dissapear? The answer is quite simple: memes are made of images, videos and GIF files, material for which someone else usually holds copyrights on.
Reddit reacted one week before the legal committee in the EU voted, for this purpose they told european users to contact MEPs directly in order to protect the free and open Internet.
In 4chan, another well know meme site, the discussions weren't as hot as in Reddit, but in many threads the discussion went around the end of memes and thus the end of meme sites.
Imgur, a platform that many use as meme storage, took a funnier aproach to the subject: They can take our money and our privacy, but they will never take our memes!

One example of the unreliablity of such filter is already being in use for years, YouTube has invested over $100 millions as of 2018 in their ContentID system which is the most expensive and advanced copyright filter to date and basically a 'small' version of what article 13 could become.
This article by Mike Masnick explains in detail how YouTube's filter works and why such systems bring more problems than benefits to the users.
 So what does Article 13 really mean for the web?

First of all, click here if you want to sign an online petition against article 13. While the vote in the Legal Affairs Committee is an important signal, is not yet a final decision. The voting in the European Parliament will probably take until at least the end of this year.
Another unanswered question is how well such filters work, because they must be able to recognize any copyrighted material and that won't come in cheap. To this day, they are far from perfect and legally harmless content is blocked while questionable content slip through the net as if there was no filter at all.

Moreover, it has not yet been clearly defined for whom the rule applies. While some say it should be only targeted to companies that store large quantities of data and make them available to the public others want it to be on every site and filter all content which is being uploaded. Whether the controversial article 13 really comes and whether Reddit, 4chan and co. then will have to filter content and thus the end of all Memes begins, is not yet decided.

Let's just hope that article 13 ends the same way as ACTA back in 2011

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