Czech MEP Mikuláš Peksa has lambasted the European Union’s attempts at online censorship.
In an interview with Brussels Signal, Peksa, one of the EU’s leading Pirate Party politicians, warned that the bloc was heading in an increasingly authoritarian, even totalitarian, direction.
“1984 was not a manual”, he said, referring to the dystopian social sci-fi novel by George Orwell, “it was a warning”.
The Pirates are a global political movement focused on online freedom, the promotion of direct democracy and civil liberties, and finding ways to improve political performance with new online tools.
As such, recent moves by the EU to increase its censorship powers under the Digital Services Act (DSA) have drawn the ire of the movement.
“They are bringing us to standards which we might see in contemporary Turkey or even Iran or China, worst case as you see in Northern Korea … this is not a direction we want to go in,” Peksa said.
The DSA is set to give the EU the power to unilaterally shut down entire social media platforms that its institutions deem problematic.
European Commissioner Thierry Breton, an EU big-hitter and potential EC Presidency candidate, gave his outspoken support to such powers, saying they were “justified and proportionate”.
Peksa begged to differ.
“Social media platforms are just a tool for exchanging information between the people and I strongly believe that people have the right to exchange information among themselves,” he said.
The EU's Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton has suggested the bloc could start cutting off problematic websites under new legislation. https://t.co/ypDSDgTI3u
— Brussels Signal (@brusselssignal) September 13, 2023
According to Peksa, not only would such moves to ban platforms be morally wrong they would also be counterproductive.
While the EC might try to block websites, Peksa said that having “spent some of my previous life working in IT … I know how easy it is. .. to overcome those blocks”.
“So, if you want to get accesses to [blocked] information, you get them. You get them, and there is no way how to prevent you from [doing] that.”
Therefore, he said, any blocking of platforms would simply create inequality between those with IT skills and those without and thus “only the people with good knowledge of cryptography and good IT skills” would have access to information on such sites.
“I think there should be equality … it’s not good to cut the people from their access to the information because wrongdoers will [get it] anyway … But the good people, they will be just locked under that censorship.”
Peksa remained pessimistic about his fellow MEPs when it came to resistance to online censorship.
“[Wes are] unfortunately, in a bit of a minority, because a lot of colleagues … perceive [censorship] as sort of like a silver bullet: the Commission will block the social media and everything is nice in their world,” he said.
Still, he saw something of a silver lining; while the Pirate movement remains a small, even fringe party, Peska said he was confident that the 2024 EU elections would return a few more Pirate MEPs, not only from his native Czechia but also Luxembourg and even Germany.
The full interview with Mikuláš Peksa will be available on the Brussels Signal website and YouTube channel from Wednesday, September 27.