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EU ECommerce Law May Undermine Human Rights, Group Says

A digital rights group has said the European Union's eCommerce Directive could undermine fundamental human rights.

European Digital Rights (EDRi) has expressed fears that the lack of safe harbors means that Internet intermediaries, such as ISPs or search engine providers, may be forced to police online content.

EDRi was responding to a public consultation on the future of electronic commerce in the E.U. internal market.

"Lack of legal certainty for intermediaries can and will be exploited by governments, institutions and private parties to create pressure for private companies to take responsibility for dealing with content that is allegedly illegal," said the organization.

"If intermediaries feel coerced, due to such legal uncertainty, to delete Internet content that they fear may be illegal, this is likely to undermine fundamental rights and freedoms, such as freedom of expression, freedom of information, freedom of thought, freedom of creation, the right to education, as well as the rights to privacy and the protection of personal data," it said.

EDRi said that in order to protect civil liberties, intermediaries not hosting the content should have no liability for allowing access to it, nor should they be responsible for filtering content. And hosting providers' liability should be restricted to compliance with a court order to take down content.

"In summary, content should be dealt with only at its hosting source and any removal of content at source should only be ordered by a court, following due process of law," said the organization.

EDRi represents 29 digital civil rights associations from 18 countries.

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