Salut la liste ! 

This month we were active on addressing age-verification requirements for online platforms and talking about liability for free software. We also got some good news on open access. 

=== Age-Verification ===

France: The French legislature is discussing a law [1] that would require online platforms, defined as “social networks”, to check their users’ age before allowing them to access the service. The proposed definitions would cover Wikipedia and its sister projects. For Wikimedia projects it would be more than just a nuisance to age-gate content. Most of the proposed systems would require gathering user data or working with third parties who do so. It would also decrease the availability and accessibility of our projects. 

Wikimédia France reached out to Senators, who last week debated and voted on the proposal. An amendment was tabled that excludes “not for profit online encyclopaedias and not for profit educational and scientific repositories”. [2] It was supported by the rapporteur, the French government (the Minister of Digital Transition and Telecommunications was present) and Senators from the the left, right and centrist groups. It was adopted by a solid majority. We have a video of the short exchange. [3] 

UK: France is not the only country where mandatory age-gating provisions for online platforms are currently being considered. The UK’s Online Safety Bill would introduce such requirements. Wikimedia UK and the Wikimedia Foundation are working intensively on advocating for various amendments to the law. [4]

Brussels: The topic is also being considered at the EU level. The Digital Services Act has a provision that requires very large online services to protect minors, but leaves it (for now) largely up to the platforms how they want to achieve this. 

Another process that is expected to start in Brussels is a “special group on the EU Code of conduct on age-appropriate design” [5], which Wikimedia Europe has applied to be a member of. The group is supposed to come up with best practice solutions on several issues, including age-verification. The chosen participants are expected to be announced “any day now”. 

=== CSAM ===

The proposal to tackle child sexual abuse material online (CSAM) [6] foresees the possibility of "detection orders" that can be issued by courts or relevant authorities against providers of "interpersonal communication services" - for example, messaging apps. This is the most contentious provision in the draft legislation, as such orders would effectively eliminate end-to-end encrypted communications.  

Last month,  an opinion by the Council Legal Services [7] was leaked that argues that the proposal would allow generalised access to the content of interpersonal communications and thus fail to meet the proportionality requirement inherent to fundamental rights. Meanwhile the European Commission continues to argue (see a note circulated in the Council on 16 May [8]) that the  proposed system of detection orders is proportionate, because providers would be able to choose between “(i) abandoning effective end-to-end encryption or (ii) introducing some form of 'back-door' to access encrypted content or (iii) accessing the content on the device of the user before it is encrypted (so-called 'client-side scanning')."

The Wikimedia Foundation has positioned itself on the proposal. [9] Wikimedia already takes measures with regards to such content on its projects and cooperates with law enforcement wherever appropriate. While Wikimedia doesn’t operate interpersonal communication services, we worry about putting an end to secure and private communications that can’t be read by governments. We also worry that some anti-grooming provisions might end up hurting already marginalised groups. 

=== Liability on Free Software ===

The Cyber Resilience Act (CRA) sets out cybersecurity requirements for a range of software products placed on the EU market. The instrument of choice is to impose liability on developers and deployers of software. Our main worry is how the new obligations would hinder developers, especially volunteers, of free software. We are coordinating our position [10] and actions with the FSFE and EDRi.

The Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) committee in the European Parliament has the lead and MEPs have tabled their amendments, which will now be discussed in the coming weeks (see Documentation Gateway in [11]). The good news is that most political groups are thinking about the specific needs of free software. The challenge is that the lawmakers, including the ones in Council, seem to be lacking a coherent vision of what a liability system should look like. We appear to be stuck considering patches and carve-outs. We are now going through an initial assessment of amendments [12] and will coordinate with our allies before contacting lawmakers. 

=== Open Access ===

Good news on Open Access!  Under the Swedish Presidency, the Competitiveness Council adopted conclusions on the ‘high quality, transparent, open, trustworthy and equitable scholarly publishing’, calling for immediate and unrestricted open access to be the norm in publishing research involving public funds. [13] The Council calls on the European Commission and Member States to support policies towards a scholarly publishing model that is not-for-profit, open access and multi-format, with no costs for authors or readers. (H/T to C4C)
















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