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Access 21 September 2017

Internet Society statement on Internet blocking measures in Catalonia, Spain

By Frédéric Donck Regional Bureau Director for Europe

Measures restricting free and open access to the Internet have been reported in Catalonia. There have been reports that major telecom operators have been asked to monitor and block traffic to political websites, and following a court order, law enforcement has raided the offices of the .CAT registry in Barcelona, examining a computer and arresting staff.

We are concerned by reports that this court order would require a top-level domain (TLD) operator such as .CAT to begin to block “all domains that may contain any kind of information about the referendum”. We do not see it as the expertise and mandate of TLD operators within the Internet’s ecosystem to engage in monitoring and blocking of content outside of receiving judicial requests related to specific domains.

The Internet Society promotes the open development, evolution, and use of the Internet for the benefit of all people throughout the world. As such, we believe actions that impede the ability of any local community to use the Internet freely are unacceptable. The court’s ruling vis-à-vis .CAT has a disproportionate chilling effect on free expression, and an unjust impact on the ability of Catalan-speaking persons to create, share, and access content on the Internet.

We are concerned that network blocking practices are multiplying as a way for countries to police online content  around the globe.

Shutdowns should not become ‘the new normal’. In an Internet Society paper released on this issue earlier this year [English, French and Spanish versions], we stressed that network blocking measures are generally ineffective, and tend to create collateral damage, including the overblocking of lawful content and expression.  We have joined with over 130 human rights organizations and over 50,000 concerned citizens across the world to urge government to Keep the Internet On.

We hope to see a return to free and unfiltered Internet in Catalonia in the near future and call on all parties to commit to upholding freedom of expression and dialogue in this challenging time.

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