Copyright Directive: behind the scenes of a so-called civic campaign

The harassment campaign against MEPs around the Copyright Directive continues, ever more aggressively: in addition to thousands of e-mails, MEPs and their teams are now flooded with hundreds of sometimes very insulting phone calls. We also reveal the resources and methods used by the “civic” campaign supported by MEP Julia Reda. Many MEPs, including Jean-Marie Cavada, are upset by the arguments used by the opponents of the Copyright Directive, which they hold to be false.

Last week, we revealed the true nature of the e-mail harassment campaign aimed at MEPs and their teams in the context of the voting on the adoption of the Copyright Directive. Axel Voss, the MEP responsible for reporting on the Directive "received over 17,000 e-mails", according to someone with knowledge of the matter. However, the campaign does not stop there: this week, we can reveal that the MEPs received dozens of phone calls per day, which are also orchestrated by the #saveyourinternet campaign financed, as was said before, in particular by bodies sponsored by the giants of the Internet. The approach used by #saveyourinternet is rather unsavoury because, as we will show you, participants do not need to use a valid e-mail address to take part.

"I do not answer the telephone anymore", said an MEP’s employee. He went on to say: "I received hundreds of calls: enough is enough!". Like with the e-mails, the phone calls that the MEPs have received about the draft Copyright Directive are orchestrated and scripted by the #saveyourinternet platform: "sometimes, they are not even aware of which MEP they are calling, and some callers even ask to speak to Ms. Cavada", said one of Jean-Marie Cavada’s employees. Most simply read verbatim the text published on the website of #saveyourinternet: "that website contains a small text explaining what to say to their MEP. It was carefully drafted and most people who call us simply read it verbatim", said a parliamentary employee. "When our interlocutor is polite, we attempt to discuss the matter with them. It is clear that they are unfamiliar with the ins and outs of the topic. Although not going so far as to say that they were manipulated, it is clear that they have no understanding of the subject", he said. "Speaking to them, it becomes clear that some are unwavering with regard to their positions, but others are prepared to discuss the issue. Some end their calls by telling us that they understand that the sky is not going to come crashing down."

Sometimes, however, and increasingly often, the persons calling MEPs lack politeness, and are even completely vulgar. Last Thursday, MEP Joëlle Bergeron was called a "bitch" and other names by an interlocutor who "was mad at her for voting in favour of the Copyright Directive in the Legal Affairs Committee" said a parliamentary attaché.

Imaginary e-mails

In parallel to this campaign of telephone calls, the e-mails keep coming in, with a few changes. A parliamentary employee told us that "implementing an anti-spam filter is almost impossible due to a recent update to the e-mail tool provided by the #saveyourinternet website: previously, the subject line of the e-mails generated by the website was always the same. Now, it changes with each e-mail. We think that the website’s organisers received information from within the European Parliament: we can only filter undesirable e-mails on the basis of the sender or the e-mail’s subject line!". It would seem surprising if that information had been given by Green or Pirate MEPs opposed to the directive.

And that is not the worst of it. Several parliamentary employees found that a valid e-mail address was not required in order to send group e-mails to several MEPs using the platform made available by #saveyourinternet: "it is the online platform ( which can be used with any e-mail address – even if it is not valid", said one of those employees. This means that literally anyone can spend their days sending e-mails. Including, therefore, employees of the companies funding the campaign. Like the parliamentary employees, we tried the tool using an invented e-mail address, and we were able to ascertain that the e-mails were sent to the MEPs, without any guarantee "making it possible to determine that it is actually citizens, natural persons, who are sending the e-mails", as said by a parliamentary attaché. Of course, this does not mean that no citizens took part in the campaign, but simply that it is far from certain that most of the hundreds of thousands and even millions of e-mails generated mostly come from citizens.

Jean-Marie Cavada a leading figure in the defense of authors at the European Parliament for several years – is shocked by this campaign which claims that censorship and the violation of fundamental rights would immediately follow the adoption of the version of the Copyright Directive desired by the Council and the Parliament. "These disinformation platforms are funded by networks behind which hides Google, putting forward the shield of what they have called freedom of expression and fundamental rights, despite the fact that the text proposed by the JURI Committee does not contain any restrictions on the freedom of expression and fundamental rights. However, it obligates active companies to share their income from the platforms they trade in. The aim is not to restrict freedom, but rather to share value in order to avoid the looting of creation.". Jean-Michel Jarre told us yesterday that he believed that Edima’s campaign, which has trucks driving around Place du Luxembourg in Brussels in the same spirit as the #saveyourinternet campaign, was a "scandalous parade. Saying that creators are against technology, against progress and for censorship is scandalous. Artists have always been among the first victims of the lack of freedom of expression and have always fought for that freedom. Saying the contrary is unacceptable."

It should be noted that MEP José Bové was also alarmed about this issue, and sent an-email to his contacts at the European Parliament yesterday with the subject line "the GAFAs arelobbying at the European Parliament." In the e-mail, he provides his contacts with information about the various ongoing campaigns, specifying that "over the past few days, I have gathered factual information on the GAFAs’ lobbying regarding the Copyright Directive." This is all the more significant given that José Bové belongs to the same parliamentary group as Julia Reda, the Greens. He is not alone among the Greens in denouncing the anti-copyright campaign: MEP Helga Truepel feels the same way. On her personal account, she re-tweeted many messages in support of the Directive, from all sides, and from all sorts of cultural organisations.