Europe just voted to change the face of the internet, backing new laws wildly unpopular with firms like Google and Reddit

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Europe just voted to change the face of the internet, backing new laws wildly unpopular with firms like Google and Reddit

The European Parliament on Tuesday passed legislation massively tightening copyright laws on the internet — a move that has been vocally opposed by tech companies, academics, and consumers.

The original draft of the new laws was sent back to the drawing board in July for being too sweeping. A softened version was then drawn up in September. On Tuesday, the directive passed in a 348-274 vote.

Two articles in particular are particularly contentious. Article 11 is sometimes called the “link tax,” and it will require companies such as Google to hold licenses for linking to publishers.

Article 13, meanwhile, requires internet companies such as Reddit to police their platforms for copyright infringements and filter out any offending content. When first proposed, it sparked fears that it could essentially kill off memes.

Before the main vote, European lawmakers voted by a majority of five votes to reject the ability to amend these controversial elements of the directive.

Andrus Ansip, the European Commission’s vice president for the digital single market, welcomed the new laws.

Julia Reda, a member of European Parliament who has campaigned against the laws, said it was a “dark day for internet freedom.”

Google also tweeted its dismay, saying the new laws would cause “legal uncertainty.”

The Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said internet users “lost a huge battle today,” while the YouTuber KSI tweeted: “Article 13 has just passed…RIP.”

Reddit, Wikipedia, and PornHub were among those who protested the laws last week, asking users to lobby their representatives in the European Parliament to vote against the measures.

Read more: Everyone is panicking about a ‘dreadful’ new law that might kill off the meme and change the internet forever

An EU Copyright Directive protest.
Reuters

Tens of thousands of protesters also took to the streets in Germany and other European countries, including Sweden, Poland, Switzerland, Austria, and Portugal, to campaign against the changes.

On Sunday, a group of 200 European academics wrote a joint statement condemning the proposal.

A major criticism leveled at the new laws is that they will chill online speech. When they were first drafted, some even feared that Article 13 could lead to the extinction of memes.

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