Bad day for the open Internet in Switzerland.
The Swiss National Council just approved network blocking.
The National Council debated on 1 March 2017 the law on gambling (“Geldspielgesetz,” “LJAr,” “LGD”) within Switzerland. However, the debate was fundamentally about more than just gambling, it was about public access to websites of foreign online gambling sites (casinos, poker sites, etc.), since they will be blocked within Switzerland once the law is applied.
The outcome of the debates amounted to restricting a free and open Internet. Further network barriers are included in proposed revisions of the copyright and the telecommunications laws. ISOC-CH condemns all attempts to censor the Internet or block content and calls for strict respect of freedom of expression in accordance with international laws. Further, ISOC-CH calls on other ISOC chapters to endorse this statement.
Following the debate in Parliament, and commenting on discussions of the vote, former ISOC-CH Chairman and CEO of the Internet consulting company Ucom.ch, Bernie Hoeneisen, observed, “Although several Swiss Parliamentarians understood the importance of this vote for a free and open internet, our proposal not to include blocking in the law did not pass. Technical acumen of the representatives in favour of blocking seemed to be low. Political arguments such as protecting the revenues of licensed Swiss casinos and lotteries prevailed in the debate.” The distribution of those revenues was a key factor. A significant portion of revenues goes to various foundations, subsidised entities or directly to the state; even politicians benefit from this money distribution machine, e.g. via Swiss Olympics, the parliamentary Football team “FC Nationalrat,” and many other associations.
Technical facts were either ignored or simply not understood. As a consequence, the National Council voted to approve measures that not only fail to result in the Federal Council’s intended effect of protecting consumers (and compulsive gamblers), but will also cause collateral damage to the open Internet. Furthermore, the adopted measures are in contradiction with attempts to make the Internet more secure.
In a fact sheet sent to all members of the Parliament, ISOC-CH and Digitale Gesellschaft summarises the most important arguments why network blocking is detrimental for the open Internet.
Many politicians believe that “warning pages” inserted by the local ISP are the most effective part of the blocking measures. We tried to explain to the decision makers in Parliament why, in over 90% of the cases, such “warning pages” are not shown to the Internet users, as encrypted surfing (https) technologically prevents the presentation of pages that have been tampered with. The user only sees a confusing error message locally generated by the browser. (see image above).
National Council member Franz Grüter even explained in his speech that encrypted surfing renders these measures useless, see this article for more information. Balthasar Glättli asked the Federal Council member in charge, Mrs. Simonetta Sommaruga, whether she is aware of that fact that “warning pages” do not work with the widely used https encryption protocol – read more here.
From her answer it appears that neither Federal Council member Sommaruga nor her staff have the technical understanding of the Internet needed to comprehend the consequences of their proposed measures.
Consequently, Digitate Gesellschaft stated in a press release (in German), “Further debate is needed on the fundamental threat to the freedom of expression and economic freedom as well as the damage caused by network barriers.”
Bernie thanked those Parliamentarians who worked on behalf of a free and open Internet during this debate: “Thanks to Balthasar Glättli, Franz Grüter, Sibel Arslan, Beat Flach, Lukas Reimann, Bernhard Guhl, Marcel Dobler, Lisa Mazzone, Philippe Nantermod and all the others for your support of the open Internet! Hope also the rest of the Parliament will learn one day, how the Internet (technically) works!”
Several partner organisations announced a referendum on this new law, as it is a threat to the open Internet and freedom of expression. This means, after the law passes the final vote in Parliament (which is seen as a formality), there would be a campaign to collect 50’000 signatures and validate them within 100 days. The ISOC-CH Board plans to propose to the ISOC-CH membership that ISOC-CH should support this referendum to enforce a popular vote.
ISOC-CH will continue its work for a free and open Internet. If you wish to be a part of this debate, please visit our website often.
Links and More Information:
ISOC-CH statement on Network Blocking: https://www.isoc.ch/archives/2430
ISOC-CH, “Network blocking removed from draft law on gambling”
https://www.isoc.ch/archives/2466 by Roxana Radu
Search the Federal Assembly Site for more info: https://www.parlament.ch/en/suche#k=15.069
To see how Swiss representative voted, please see the results here: https://www.parlament.ch/en/ratsbetrieb/abstimmungen/abstimmungs-datenbank-nr?BusinessNumber=15.069
Swiss Parliament Press Release, 13 Jan 2017, in DE, IT and FR: “La Commission des affaires juridiques du Conseil national ne veut pas que la loi fédérale sur les jeux d’argent (15.069) prévoie le blocage de sites Internet.”
Digitale Gesellschaft Infographic, “Netzsperren funktionieren nicht und machen das Internet unsicher” and information:
News, Digitale Gesellschaft: “Schweizer Parlament will Netzsperren”
News, Heise Online: “Online-Glücksspiel: Schweiz führt trotz viel Kritik Netzsperren ein” https://www.heise.de/newsticker/meldung/Online-Gluecksspiel-Schweiz-fuehrt-trotz-viel-Kritik-Netzsperren-ein-3641814.html
News, Intellectual Property Watch, “Switzerland Next In Line To Gamble With Net Blocking” http://www.ip-watch.org/2017/03/03/switzerland-next-line-gamble-net-blocking/
This article was written with credited content from the Digitale Gesellschaft web page, with input from Bernie Hoeneisen, Richard Hill, and Lynn Sorrentino.