Index CEO writes open letter on EU plans for political advertising rules

Index on Censorship continues to have serious concerns about the EU plans for political advertising rules and the chilling effect on freedom of expression. Our CEO, Ruth Anderson, has written to the Presidents of the Council of the European Union, the European Commission and the European Parliament to urge a pause and a rethink ahead of the 2024 Elections.


Senor Pedro Sanchez MP, President, Council of the European Union

Ursula von der Leyen, President, European Commission

Roberta Metsola MEP, President of the European Parliament

Monday, 30th October 2023


Dear Presidents, 

A free and fair election is the cornerstone of a vibrant and functioning democracy. It is a right we all defend and it is what sets us apart from tyrants and demagogues. 

With the continuing advancement of digital campaigning and with more citizens consuming their news via digital platforms, it is entirely understandable that the European Union would seek to safeguard future elections with new protections. 

However any changes have to be considered through the prism of the shared fundamental right of freedom of expression. More than half of the citizens of the world now live in regimes where that freedom is constantly under threat. Like free and fair elections, the right to freedom of expression is something we must all cherish and defend. 

Index on Censorship, as a leading global advocate group for freedom of expression, continues to have serious concerns about the chilling effect that the proposed European Political Advertising regulations could have on freedom of expression. 

Whether it is journalists, civil society campaigners or politicians – it remains our position that each will see their freedom of expression curtailed as a result of your proposals. 

Our analysis is still that the system of flagging is open to abuse, the scope of the proposals would capture and silence too many voices seeking to share their lawful opinions and the requirements placed on large digital platforms to examine and remove content places too great a responsibility in the hands of unaccountable organisations and opaque algorithms. 

I do not doubt for one second the sincerity with which the European Union has approached the task of safeguarding elections from foreign interference. However, it is clear from the continuing tone of the debate and the stalemate that exists during the trialogues that consensus is still far away. 

The worst decision that the European Union could now make is to rush through contentious rules ahead of the June elections. The European Union elections are the second biggest exercise of democratic rights in the world – it would be a disaster to impose new rules so close to these elections when those rules do not command a broad consent from participants. 

The complex nature of current events rightly commands attention from the EU and represents a more immediate demand on time and resources. 

Index on Censorship would urge the EU to take a moment and pause, in order to consider how best to safeguard both the right to a free and fair election alongside the right to freedom of expression.  Do not be forced by time to rush into force, rules which have yet been agreed or tested. To do so now would be a dereliction of our collective duty to protect our basic rights. 

Index on Censorship remains ready to help the European Union navigate the complex nature of freedom of expression and I hope we can continue to work together to safeguard our hard-won – but fragile – freedoms.

Yours sincerely,


Ruth Anderson

CEO, Index on Censorship.


Ursula von der Leyen must ensure media freedom and protection of journalists are priority

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”108086″ img_size=”full”][vc_column_text]European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen
European Commission
Rue de la Loi 200
1049 Brussels

19 July 2019

Dear President von der Leyen,

We are writing as members of the press freedom community to congratulate you on your appointment as President of the European Commission, and to urge you to ensure that media freedom, the protection of journalists, and EU citizens’ access to information are top political priorities over the coming term of your Commission.

The last Commission took important steps to address media freedom. But given the rapidly changing media environment, increasingly severe threats and restrictions to press freedom, and the recent murders of journalists, more must be done. We, the undersigned organizations, strongly urge you to appoint a Vice-President of the new Commission with a clear and robust mandate to use all available EU mechanisms, including policy, legislation, and budget, to defend press freedom and the safety of journalists. In particular, we urge you to explicitly list this mandate in your mission letter to one of the Vice-Presidents establishing it as a political priority over the next five-year term.

We ask that the Vice-President have a sufficiently robust and far-ranging mandate to address the following areas of reform:

  • Creating an enabling legal and regulatory environment for free, independent, pluralistic, and diverse media and the safety of journalists, whether staff, freelancers, or bloggers. Journalists need to be protected from judicial harassment, arbitrary surveillance, defamation, overly broad national security and anti-terrorist legislation, as well as SLAPP and tax laws.
  • Protecting journalists, freelancers, and bloggers from physical, legal, psychological, and digital threats, and ensuring access to effective protection and prevention measures and mechanisms, with specific attention to the risks facing female journalists.
  • Combating impunity for all attacks against journalists, freelancers, and bloggers, including support and capacity-building for law enforcement, prosecutors, and the judiciary and the development of specialized protocols for investigations.
  • Continuing to combat disinformation through robust public defense of independent journalism and its critical importance in democracy. This should accompany efforts to increase public understanding of media freedoms, supporting social media self-regulation, and building media literacy.
  • Supporting sustainable models for independent journalism in promoting media independence, pluralism, and diversity, as well as allowing for effective self-regulation, capacity building, and training.

Media freedom and pluralism are pillars of modern democracy. For the next Commission to guarantee European citizens their right to access to information, it must use the coming term to address the numerous threats to journalism. We hope you will take steps to ensure it does.

We would welcome the opportunity to meet with you and thank you in advance for taking our concerns into consideration. We look forward to receiving your response.


Alliance Internationale de Journalistes 

Article 19 

Association of European Journalists 

Committee to Protect Journalists 

English PEN 

European Federation of Journalists 

European Journalism Centre 

European Media Initiative 

European Centre for Press and Media Freedom 

Free Press Unlimited 

Global Forum for Media Development 


Index on Censorship 

International Press Institute 

Media Diversity Institute 

PEN International 

Reporters Without Borders 

Rory Peck Trust 

South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) 

World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA)[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

European Commission must mitigate concerns on automated upload filters

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Dear President Juncker,
Dear First Vice-President Timmermans,
Dear Vice-President Ansip,
Dear Commissioner Gabriel,
Dear Director General Roberto Viola,

The undersigned stakeholders represent fundamental rights organizations, the knowledge community (in particular libraries), free and open source software developers, and communities from across the European Union. The new Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market has been adopted and, as soon as it is published in the Official Journal, Member States will have two years to implement the new rules. Article 17, on ‘certain uses of protected content by online services’, foresees that the European Commission will issue guidance on the application of this Article.

The undersigned organisations have, on numerous occasions throughout the legislative debate on the copyright reform, expressed their very explicit concerns (1) about the fundamental and human rights questions that will appear in the implementation of the obligations laid down on online content-sharing service providers by Article 17. These concerns have also been shared by a wide variety of other stakeholders, the broad academic community of intellectual property scholars, as well as Members of the European Parliament and individual Member States. (2)

We consider that, in order to mitigate these concerns, it is of utmost importance that the European Commission and Member States engage in a constructive transposition and implementation to ensure that the fears around automated upload filters are not realized.

We believe that the stakeholder dialogues and consultation process foreseen in Article 17(10) to provide input on the drafting of guidance around the implementation of this Article should be as inclusive as possible. The undersigned organisations represent consumers and work to enshrine fundamental rights into EU law and national-level legislation.

These organisations are stakeholders in this process, and we call upon the European Commission to ensure the participation of human rights and digital rights organisations, as well as the knowledge community (in particular libraries), free and open source software developers, and communities in all of its efforts around the transposition and implementation of Article 17. This would include the planned Working Group, as well as other stakeholder dialogues, or any other initiatives at consultation level and beyond.

Such broad and inclusive participation is crucial for ensuring that the national implementations of Article 17 and the day-to-day cooperation between online content-sharing service providers and rightholders respects the Charter of Fundamental Rights by safeguarding citizens’ and creators’ freedom of expression and information, whilst also protecting their privacy. These should be the guiding principles for a harmonized implementation of Article 17 throughout the Digital Single Market.

Yours sincerely

Balázs Dénes
Executive Director
Civil Liberties Union for Europe (Liberties)

• Association for Progressive Communications
• ApTi Romania
• Article 19
• Associação D3 – Defesa dos Direitos Digitais
• Associação Nacional para o Software Livre – Portugal
• Bits of Freedom
• BlueLink Foundation
• Center for Media & Democracy
• Centrum Cyfrowe Foundation
• Civil Liberties Union for Europe
• Coalizione Italiana Libertà e Diritti civili
• COMMUNIA association for the Public Domain
• Creative Commons
• Digital courage
• Digitalegeshellschaft
• Electronic Frontier Finland
• Electronic Frontiers Foundation
• Elektronisk Forpost Norge
• European Digital Rights (EDRi)
• Fitug e.v.
• Hermes Center
• Hivos
• Homo Digitalis
• Human Rights Monitoring Institute
• Hungarian Civil Liberties Union
• Index on Censorship
• International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA)
• Irish Council for Civil Liberties
• IT-Pol Denmark
• La Quadrature du Net
• Metamorphosis Foundation
• Nederlands Juristen Comité voor de Mensenrechten (NJCM)
• Open Rights Group
• Peace Institute
• Privacy First
• Rights International Spain
• Vrijschrift
• Wikimedia Deutschland e. V.
• Wikimedia Foundation
• Xnet

1 Human rights and digital rights organisations:
2 Academics from the leading European research centres:
Max Plank Institute:
UN special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression:[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1558113426313-ebe0f776-1ffe-2″ taxonomies=”4883″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

The European Commission must amend the regulation on terrorist content online to protest fundamental rights

On 12 September, the European Commission published a proposal for a Regulation on preventing the dissemination of terrorist content online. The proposal is very problematic from a fundamental rights and free expression perspective. Index on Censorship joins others in highlighting these concerns.  

Dear Ministers,

The undersigned organisations are dedicated to protecting fundamental human rights, including the right to freedom of expression and information, both online and offline. We urge you to significantly amend the ‘Regulation on preventing the dissemination of terrorist content online‘, proposed by the European Commission on 12 September 2018, to bring it in line with the Charter of Fundamental Rights, and to propose evidence-based measures that can better achieve the Regulation’s stated goals.

Preventing and countering terrorism, regardless of the ideological, political or religious motivations of the perpetrators, is a legitimate and important goal for European governments that seek to protect liberty and security for individuals and societies. EU Member States and institutions are taking numerous initiatives that aim to counter the threat of violence, including addressing content online that is perceived as promoting terrorism.

One such initiative is the Directive on Combating Terrorism, adopted in March 2017. This Directive has provisions which cover similar content to the Regulation currently being debated – notably in requiring Member States to ensure the “prompt removal of online content constituting a public provocation to commit a terrorist offence” – but its effectiveness has not yet been analysed due to a lack of implementation in all Member States. Without evidence to demonstrate that the existing laws and measures, and in particular the aforementioned Directive, are insufficient to address the harm of terrorist content online, the proposed Regulation cannot be deemed justified and necessary. EU institutions must always ensure that all legislation is evidence-based, appropriately balanced, and consistent with human rights requirements. The undersigned do not believe the proposed Regulation meets these criteria.

Several aspects of the proposed Regulation would significantly endanger freedom of expression and information in Europe:

  • Vague and broad definitions: The Regulation uses vague and broad definitions to describe ‘terrorist content’ which are not in line with the Directive on Combating Terrorism. This increases the risk of arbitrary removal of online content shared or published by human rights defenders, civil society organisations, journalists or individuals based on, among others, their perceived political affiliation, activism, religious practice or national origin. In addition, judges and prosecutors in Member States will be left to define the substance and boundaries of the scope of the Regulation. This would lead to uncertainty for users, hosting service providers, and law enforcement, and the Regulation would fail to meet its objectives.
  • ‘Proactive measures’: The Regulation imposes ‘duties of care’ and a requirement to take ‘proactive measures’ on hosting service providers to prevent the re-upload of content. These requirements for ‘proactive measures’ can only be met using automated means, which have the potential to threaten the right to free expression as they would lack safeguards to prevent abuse or provide redress where content is removed in error. The Regulation lacks the proper transparency, accountability and redress mechanisms to mitigate this threat. The obligation applies to all hosting services providers, regardless of their size, reach, purpose, or revenue models, and does not allow flexibility for collaborative platforms.
  • Instant removals: The Regulation empowers undefined ‘competent authorities’ to order the removal of particular pieces of content within one hour, with no authorisation or oversight by courts. Removal requests must be honoured within this short time period regardless of any legitimate objections platforms or their users may have to removal of the content specified, and the damage to free expression and access to information may already be irreversible by the time any future appeal process is complete.
  • Terms of service over rule of law: The Regulation allows these same competent authorities to notify hosting service providers of potential terrorist content that companies must check against their terms of service and hence not against the law. This will likely lead to the removal of legal content as company terms of service often restrict expression that may be distasteful or unpopular, but not unlawful. It will also undermine law enforcement agencies for whom terrorist posts can be useful sources in investigations.

The European Commission has not presented sufficient evidence to support the necessity of the proposed measures. The Impact Assessment accompanying the European Commission’s proposal states that only 6% of respondents to a recent public consultation have encountered terrorist content online. In Austria, which publishes data on unlawful content reports to its national hotline, approximately 75% of content reported as unlawful were in fact legal. It is thus likely that the actual number of respondents who have encountered terrorist content is much lower than the reported 6%. In fact, 75% percent of the respondents to the public consultation considered the internet to be safe.

The Regulation, as proposed, would introduce serious risks of arbitrariness and have grave consequences for freedom of expression and information, as well as for civil society organisations, investigative journalism and academic research, among other fields.

We urge Members of the European Parliament and Member State representatives to significantly amend the Regulation. In this regard, they should prioritize providing evidence for why this instrument is justified and necessary considering the recent adoption of the Directive on Combatting Terrorism. If evidence proves the Regulation justified and necessary, it is imperative for the EU institutions to bring it in line with the Charter of Fundamental Rights, namely the right to privacy in Art.7, to data protection in Art.8 and to freedom of expression and information in Art.11.


Access Now


Bits of Freedom

Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT)

Chaos Computer Club


Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)


Digital Rights Ireland

European Digital Rights (EDRi)

Electronic Frontier Finland

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)


Free Knowledge Advocacy Group

Frënn vun der Ënn

Homo Digitalis

Human Rights Watch (HRW)

Index on Censorship

Initiative für Netzfreiheit

IT-Political Association of Denmark


Reporters Without Borders

The Civil Liberties Union for Europe (Liberties)

Web Foundation

Wikimedia Foundation  


Signing in an individual capacity. Affiliation is for identification purposes only.

Daphne Keller
Director of Intermediary Liability
Center for Internet and Society
Stanford Law School

Joan Barata, PhD
Intermediary Liability Fellow
Center for Internet and Society
Stanford Law School