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An assault on politics – chronicled blow by blow

The EU Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market has engendered fierce debate. In some
cases, parliamentarians were bombarded with unprecedented barrages of emails. This report reca-
pitulates the chronology of how the protests unfolded and sheds light on the actors behind the sup-
posedly grassroots protests against the directive.


July 11, 2017

The European Parliament's Committees on Culture and Education (CULT) and on Industry, Research
and Energy (ITRE) adopt their reports on the new copyright directive.


September 28, 2017

The website Openmedia.org releases an initial statement commenting on the opinion adopted by
CULT. The phrases “link tax” and “censorship machine” are both deployed.

© FDS / IVD 12/2018                                                                                                                                                                                                       1 
 



Illustration: Ruth Coustick-Deal from OpenMedia explaining how to exert influence on MEPs on 28 September 2017

© FDS / IVD 12/2018                                                                                                                                                                                                       2 
 




Illustration: OpenMedia promoting the slogans “Link Tax” and “censorship machines.”


Illustration: In cooperation with Liberties.eu and EDRi, OpenMedia provides a “service” in the form of a tool for making phone
cal s to MEPs.


© FDS / IVD 12/2018                                                                                                                                                                                                       3 
 


OpenMedia is a Canadian company in receipt of funding from tech giants like Google. It provides cam-
paigning tools through its subsidiary New/Media. (See Appendix 1 for further details on OpenMedia
and New/Media)


4 October 2017

The Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda mentions “censorship machines”.


Illustration: Screenshot from the website Juliareda.eu from 04 October, 2017
https://juliareda.eu/2017/10/fatale-filter-fehlentscheidungen/


 

© FDS / IVD 12/2018                                                                                                                                                                                                       4 
 


May 2018:

The domain Saveyourinternet.eu is registered on 3 May 2018.
The website Saveyourinternet.eu goes on to play a central role in events over the summer of 2018 as
the main hub of opposition to the EU directive.
The site does not give the details of the operator as it is obliged to under the e-Commerce Directive.
Only through a Whois domain lookup is it possible to ascertain that the domain was registered by
xxx@xxxxxxxx.xx. This most likely suggests the involvement of Caroline de Cock, the Managing Direc-
tor of N-Square, a Belgian lobbying firm acting on behalf of Google and others.
The campaign against the directive was organised by the Copyright for Creativity (C4C) coalition, and
the coalition’s secretariat is run by N-Square. “Copyright for Creativity” (C4C) has 42 members includ-
ing enterprises and various other organisations. It is funded largely by George Soros’ Open Society
Foundation (OSF) and by the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), an American
organisation; Soros is, of course, one of the owners of Alphabet (and hence also of Google). Several
members of this coalition, among them IGEL and EDRi, are in receipt of funding from Google.
(See Appendix 2 for further details on N-Square and C4C)


Illustration: WhoIs lookup results for the page saveyourinternet.eu




 

© FDS / IVD 12/2018                                                                                                                                                                                                       5 
 


June 2018

On 20 June, the European Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI) votes on the proposal for the
Copyright Directive drafted by committee rapporteur Axel Voss. His proposal is adopted by the com-
mittee with 15 members in favour and ten against.
Several members of the committee report having been bombarded with a barrage of emails. These
emails were generated on the saveyourinternet.eu campaign site.
At this time, saveyourinternet.eu is providing users with access to the New/Media tools mentioned
above, but also with links to other organisations (Mozilla.org, Liberties.eu) that either also make use of
the New/Media tools or provide other services offering the same functions: connecting phone cal s at
no charge and al owing users to send pre-written emails and tweets.

Much of the campaign’s effort has been focused on Poland. An analysis of visitors to the Saveyourin-
ternet.eu website is tel ing in this regard: 20% of al  site visitors, the largest proportion from any coun-
try, cal ed up the site from Poland.

Illustration: Results of a Similarweb site analysis of Saveyourinternet.eu

This was possibly explained by the banner advertising placed by Savyourinternet.eu: almost 100,000
visitors were drawn to the site by such advertising banners. Close to 90% of this advertising was placed
through Propel er Ads, a company encountered with depressing regularity in various studies of adver-
tising on rights-infringing websites.
© FDS / IVD 12/2018                                                                                                                                                                                                       6 
 





Illustration: Results of a Similarweb analysis of Saveyourinternet.eu’s advertising


An initial protest against the resolution held at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin in June 2018 attracted
150 participants.

Illustrations: Photos of the demonstration on 22 June 2018 in Berlin Source: Golem.de




 

© FDS / IVD 12/2018                                                                                                                                                                                                       7 
 




July 2018

The EU Parliament is due to vote on the text adopted by the legal affairs committee on 5 July.
MEPs are being bombarded with masses of emails. Some parliamentarians asked about this bombard-
ment report having received between 40,000 and 70,000 emails in the week preceding the vote. Many
of these emails have been created using the New/Mode tool. They al  have almost exactly the same
content. Most of them are being sent either from the domain Openmedia.org or from Liberties.eu, an
alliance of various civil liberties groups from around Europe.

In the run-up to the vote, Saveyourinternet.eu has assigned EU parliamentarians to two categories,
“heros” (opposed to the directive) and “zeros” (MEPs in favour of its adoption).

Illustration: “Zeros” listed on Saveyourinternet.eu

Visitors to the Saveyourinternet.eu website are now
able to send pre-written emails to 20 MEPs known
to be in favour of the directive.
These emails are dispatched without any verification
of their senders. No checks are run to establish that
the senders are EU citizens or, indeed, that they are
humans at al  rather than automated scripts fil ing
out forms. Senders are also free to use any email
address, regardless of whether it exists and regard-
less of whether it has already been used to send
emails using the tool. Users merely need to click on
the “Back” button in their browsers to reload the
form and instantly send emails to 20 recipients
again.

The Parliament rejects the draft in a close-run vote.
It quickly becomes clear that another vote will
take place in September.

Screenshot from the Saveyourinternet.eu tool By this point,
“heros” and “zeros” have already been identified. Users
can only email the “zeros” in the run-up to the vote.

© FDS / IVD 12/2018                                                                                                                                                                                                       8 
 


August 2018

US blogger David Lowery demonstrates that the one-click phone cal  tool provided al ows a US citizen
to reach EU parliamentarians easily. These free phone cal s are offered at no charge by Mozil a, and
cal ers are provided with talking points – scripts to guide them through what they should tel  MEPs.



Illustration: Lowery can reach an MEP in the United Kingdom from his US phone number

One hashtag has been particularly prominent in the campaign against the EU Directive so far: #savey-
ourinternet.

Twitter data showing how this hashtag has been used can be aggregated using services like Talkwalker.
Kommentiert 
Rechtschreibung dt. Text Hastag/Hashtag 
Talkwalker allows tweets from both sides of the debate to be grouped by country and by city.
An evaluation of the hashtag by the Content Creators Coalition (C3), an American association, has
Kommentiert 
Rechtschreibung dt. Text 
shown that #saveyourinternet was mentioned 195,000 times between 1 June 2018 and 1 August 2018.
Coaltion/Coalition 
Of this total of 195,000 mentions, 72,000 originated from within the EU and 116,000, a considerably
larger number, from within the US. A staggering 88,000 tweets were sent from Washington DC alone,
more than from the entire EU.

© FDS / IVD 12/2018                                                                                                                                                                                                       9 
 





Illustration: The deployment of the hashtag #saveyourinternet between 1 June 2018 and 1 August 2018.
Tweet data aggregated using Talkwalker.


The possibility that these tweets were sent by EU citizens in Washington can be excluded on purely
logical grounds. It is more plausible that they were sent via bots operated from Washington. A closer
look at an unrepresentative random sample of Twitter accounts tweeting in favour of and in opposition
to the Directive nourishes suspicions that these tweets cannot possibly al  have been sent by humans.
Anti-accounts were, on average, 4 months old and had an average of 37 fol owers.
This contrasted sharply with the pro accounts, which were 6 years and 3 months old and had 487 fol-
lowers on average.

On 18 August 2018, the article “Die Anatomie eines
Politik-Hacks” (“Anatomy of a Political Hacking”) ap-
pears in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ). This
article is based on two blog posts that have already
Kommentiert 
Rechtschreibung dt. fast/fasst 
appeared in German and English on the blog Web-
schauder.de on 27 July and 3 August.
It expresses serious doubts concerning the true number
of supporters the movement against the directive has
attracted.
These doubts are justified with reference to the incon-
sistent picture presented by the tweets, but also to the
complete lack of any security measures on the forms
for sending pre-written emails. These forms can be
cal ed up by the most primitive of programs and al ow
emails to be sent any number of times.
Shortly after the publication of this article in the FAZ,
Illustration: Examples of identical tweets in various languages
with the #Saveyourinternet hashtag

© FDS / IVD 12/2018                                                                                                                                                                                                       10 
 

the Liberties.eu website removes the function al owing mass emails to be sent to EU parliamentarians
from its campaign page.
Campaigners against the directive cal  for a wave of in-person protests across Europe on 25/26 August.
The petition against the directive on Change.org has already been signed one mil ion times by this
point, and the protesters gather under the motto “1of1Mil ion”.


© FDS / IVD 12/2018                                                                                                                                                                                                       11 
 








Illustration: Saveyourinternet.today website calling on people to join demonstrations The operators of the site are anonymous
and the page is protected by a WhoIs protection service in Panama.


The demonstrations in 27 cities around Europe draw an
estimated 800 participants in total.
Berlin  
120
Hamburg

44
Vienna  

38
Cracow

35
Karlsruhe

32
Stuttgart

30
Warsaw

30
Munich

30
Hamburg
Katowice

25
Helsinki

18
Stockholm

18
Prague  

16
Amsterdam

15
Paris  

15
Łódź  

6
Total  
472
Average

30

 

Munich
© FDS / IVD 12/2018                                                                                                                                                                                                       12 
 



The smallest demonstration, with only 6 protesters, takes place in Łódź, Poland. The largest protest is
the one in Berlin. In spite of the fact that numerous parties, associations and organisations had cal ed
on people to turn out, only 120 people show up.


Stockholm




Berlin

Participants in the protests have confirmed these figures. The poor turnouts are all the more astonish-
ing in light of the large number of websites publicising the protests In Poland, the demonstrations use
the slogan ACTA2 as their ral ying cry. The free trade agreement ACTA had sparked huge controversy in
Poland in 2012. (As mentioned above, the Saveyourinternet campaign targeted Poland intensively.)


On 27 August, the news agency AFP published a short interview with N-Square’s Managing Director
Caroline De Cock. In response to a question about mass emails, she answered that no other way to
reach EU parliamentarians existed; sending post-it notes was hardly an option.


 

© FDS / IVD 12/2018                                                                                                                                                                                                       13 
 




September 2018

The FAZ publishes a further article on
the topic on 5 September 2018 with
more information on the mass emailing
campaign.

On 11 September 2018, the very last day
before the vote, EU parliamentarians
report that barrages of spam emails are
once again fil ing their inboxes.

A parliamentarian’s office confirms to us
that the new wave of emails arrived at
an interesting time of day: the flood of
incoming mails peaked between mid-
night and 1:00 AM. Most Europeans
around the EU are asleep then.

Tweets were also sent at odd hours.
An analysis using the service Keyhole to
see when most tweets were sent shows
that the high-water mark was reached at
2:00 am Brussels time.



Illustration: the inbox of EU MEP Andreas Schwab, Source: Twitter





Il-
lustration: A Keyhole analysis of the hashtag #saveyourinternet just before the vote

© FDS / IVD 12/2018                                                                                                                                                                                                       14 
 



On 12 September 2018, the plenary vote on whether the current draft of the directive should be sent
forward to the trilogue negotiations phase takes place in the EU parliament. 438 votes are cast in fa-
vour and 226 against.

In a press conference with Axel Voss and Helga Trüpel after the vote has been taken, Trüpel remarked
that many parliamentarians were incensed that their staff had been compel ed to delete masses of
identical emails over weeks.


Illustration: Press conference after the vote


Immediately after the vote, Canadian company OpenMedia announces its intention to exert increasing
pressure on EU member states in order to influence the ongoing process of shaping the directive.


Illustration: Statement issued by OpenMedia after the vote.


 

© FDS / IVD 12/2018                                                                                                                                                                                                       15 
 




October 2018

YouTube releases a video aimed
primarily at its community, the
“creators” of videos and opera-
tors of YouTube channels.
Susan Wojcicki, YouTube’s CEO,
states in the video that YouTube
wil  be forced to shut down nu-
merous channels once the di-
rective comes into force. She
does not, however, explain why
YouTube channels would have to
be shut down. The #saveyourin-
ternet hashtag is promoted intensively by YouTube.
Even news services like “Heise online” that are close to the Internet community criticise Wojcicki’s
failure to mention license purchases by YouTube as the solution to the conflict.

OpenMedia removes its financial reports from its website. Trying to cal  them up now yields an error
message. Some sponsors are also removed from the list of sponsors displayed on the company’s web-
site.
Illustration: Calling up the page with the 2015 financial statement.


Illustration: OpenMedia platinum sponsors in October 2018. Mozil a and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of
Canada are now missing – both were stil  listed as sponsors in the summer of 2018.

© FDS / IVD 12/2018                                                                                                                                                                                                       16 
 



November 2018

Numerous videos by creators predicting that YouTube wil  disappear in 2019 are released in Germany.
3 of the top 5 trending videos at the beginning of November deal with the topic. The process by which
videos are ranked as “trending” is not transparent, but it is clear that trending videos have an enor-
mous reach.
A video on the channel “Wissenswert” (“worth knowing”) was clicked on almost four mil ion times
even though the channel has only 300,000 subscribers.

Illustration: The “Top 5” Trending Videos on YouTube in Germany

A leaked document demon-
strates that YouTube provided
creators with ready-made
graphics that could be used as
overlays in videos. The
graphics are localised and
intended for use on Facebook,
Instagram, Twitter and
YouTube.
Illustration: The home page of the toolkit provided by YouTube for working
with the overlays


© FDS / IVD 12/2018                                                                                                                                                                                                       17 
 




Illustration: Overlays for Facebook and Twitter from the toolkit


By this point, even children were being drawn into the lobbying process:

Illustration: Tweet by Julia Reda from 29 November 2018
 

© FDS / IVD 12/2018                                                                                                                                                                                                       18 
 


December 2018

The website saveyourinternet.eu stil  does not give proper contact information as legally mandated,
but it does now link to EDRi.

Illustration: the new saveyourinternet.eu contact page as seen on 5 December 2018

Conclusion

Actors from North America (both the US and Canada) have demonstrably sought to exert influence on
the European legislative process through associations or by engaging lobbying firms directly. The tactic
of exerting pressure by generating floods of emails and tweets is not a new one; it was already exploit-
ed two years ago during the debate on net neutrality (see Appendix 3).
Identical arguments were made back then, and they were put forward by almost identical actors.

Within the saveyourinternet compaign Parliamentarian’s offices were severely hampered in their abil-
ity to perform their work, and emails to parliamentarians that people had taken the trouble to draft
personal y went unread.

This report is created by Volker Rieck and Jörg Weinrich in December 2018. 
For any further question pls. contact us. Contact details on page 25. 
 
Download versions can be found here: 
 
Link to English version 
 
https://bit.ly/2E8Qw1b 
 
Link to German version 
 
https://bit.ly/2QkVkrv 
 
 

© FDS / IVD 12/2018                                                                                                                                                                                                       19 
 



Appendix 1:

Open Media and New/Mode
Open Media is a Canadian company. It was founded in 2014, and Jacob Glick was one of its founders.
Glick had previously worked for Google in Canada and the USA in the areas of public policy and gov-
ernment relations. He is still a member of OpenMedia’s board today.


Illustration: Jacob Glick’s profile on the OpenMedia website

OpenMedia is partial y financed through donations, but the enterprise also has “sponsors”. The com-
pany’s “platinum sponsors” include Google, Mozil a and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of
Canada.
Sponsors in the platinum category have paid more than 20,000 Canadian dol ars, but it is not clear
whether these were one-off or repeated payments. Nor are the exact figures donated known.


Illustration: Platinum sponsors of Open Media as listed on the company website in August 2018

Open Media published its most recent financial statement in 2016. No financial statements for subse-
quent years are available.
The company describes itself as a non-profit organisation, but under Canadian law, that does not make
it a charity; strict rules apply to registered charities in Canada. While there are various rules governing
organisations in the non-profit sector that are not charities, what the word essential y boils down to is
that the company does not set out to make a profit.

Open Media has a subsidiary, New/Mode Inc, that provides “engagement tools” to campaign opera-
tors. These tools make it possible to influence political decision makers by sending pre-written emails
using automated processes, posting pre-written tweets or even dispatching pre-written letters to, for
example, local newspapers. They also make it easy to contact decision-makers by telephone.
© FDS / IVD 12/2018                                                                                                                                                                                                       20 
 



Illustration: New/Mode Inc. has a business model focused on renting out tools like these



Illustration: Open Media’s price list


After information about the role of OpenMedia in this campaign had been published, steps were taken
to obfuscate OpenMedia’s funding sources and the relationship between OpenMedia and New/Media.  

© FDS / IVD 12/2018                                                                                                                                                                                                       21 
 



Appendix 2:

N-Square, Copyright for Creativity (C4C)

42 companies or other organisations are members of the C4C (Copyright for Creativity) coalition. Sev-
eral of them, including IGEL and EDRi, are in receipt of financial support from Google. No creators (in
the sense of originators of music, books, films or games) are listed as members.

Illustration: Screenshot showing C4C members as displayed on Saveyourinternet.eu

The C4C secretariat is run by the Belgian lobbying firm N-Square. N-Square is a member of KDC Group,
a lobbying firm based in Brussels/Belgium that also works on behalf of Google.
C4C is, by its own account, funded principal y by the Open Society Foundation (OSF) founded and
chaired by George Soros (one of the owners of Alphabet, and hence of Google) and by the Computer
and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) in the US.


Illustration: The funding of saveyourinternet.eu as shown by the site itself

Saveyourinternet.eu, the most important website opposing the directive, is backed by the websites
and actors listed below; all are either listed as cooperation partners on the website or linked to from
the website.

© FDS / IVD 12/2018                                                                                                                                                                                                       22 
 




In alphabetical order, they are:
•  Article13.bg, Bulgaria
•  C4C – Belgium (with a secretariat run by N-Square)
•  Change.org, USA
•  Changecopyright.org, USA (operated by Mozil a)
•  Civil Liberties for Europe (Liberties.eu), Germany (an al iance of European civil liberties groups)
•  Create.refresh – USA, operated by Purpose.com Inc. (a firm that lobbies for Google, among other clients)
•  FixCopyright.eu– Belgium (registered by KDC Group, N-Square’s parent company)
•  Mozil a.org, USA (Mozi l a takes in 500 mil ion dol ars annual y through an arrangement with Google that
makes Google the default search engine in Mozil a’s browser Firefox)
•  N-Square, Belgium (a lobbying firm active on behalf of Google as wel  as other clients)
•  Open Media, Canada and its Canadian subsidiary New/Mode Inc.
•  Open Rights Group, UKSavecodeshare.eu
•  Voxscientia.eu – Belgium (registered by KDC Group, N-Square’s parent company)
 

© FDS / IVD 12/2018                                                                                                                                                                                                       23 
 

Appendix 3:

A comparison of campaigns
The current campaign against the directive bears a distinctive resemblance to the controversy over the
introduction of a legal framework governing net neutrality that was the subject of an excellent study
by Danish consultant John Strand back in 2016 (“The Moment of Truth – A Portrait of the Fight For
Hard Net Neutrality Regulation by Save the Internet and Other Internet Activists”). This study sheds
light on the business interests of stakeholders and also investigates US and Indian campaigns.
The Webschauder blog post “Save Your Income – Lobbying Carried Out By Google, Netflix, Soros &
Co.”
identifies commonalities and differences between these campaigns presenting themselves as a
the work of grassroots civil liberties groups.
It can be found under: http://webschauder.de/safeyourincome-lobbying-carried-out-by-google-netflix-soros-co/


The chronology presented here is based largely on a series of articles published throughout the sum-
mer and autumn of 2018 on the blog WebSchauder.de and in some cases also in the Frankfurter
Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ). The six “Webschauder” blog posts are:
• 
Anatomie eines Politik-Hacks, 27.7.2018; http://webschauder.de/anatomie-eines-politik-hacks/ 

English version: 
The anatomy of an assault on politics; http://webschauder.de/the-anatomy-of-an-assault-on-politics/

• 
Anatomie eines Politik-Hacks Teil 2 – Die Organisation des Hacks, 3.8.2018;
http://webschauder.de/politik-hack-2-organisation/ 
Kommentiert 
URL korrigiert (ein Strich hat gefehlt) 

English version: 
The anatomy of an assault on politics, Part 2; http://webschauder.de/assault-on-politics-2-organization/

•  Kunstrasen statt Graswurzel: Wenn Clicktivismus auf harte Realität trifft, 28.8.2018;
http://webschauder.de/kunstrasen-statt-graswurzel-wenn-clicktivismus-auf-harte-realitaet-trifft/

English version:
Astroturf instead of grass roots: when clicktivism meets hard reality;
http://webschauder.de/astroturf-instead-of-grass-roots-when-clicktivism-meets-hard-reality/

•  Vorhang auf zur nächsten Runde, 3.9.2018; http://webschauder.de/vorhang-auf-zur-naechsten-runde/ 

English version: 
Curtain up for the next round; http://webschauder.de/curtain-up-for-the-next-round/

© FDS / IVD 12/2018                                                                                                                                                                                                       24 
 

• 
Nach der Manipulation ist vor der Manipulation, 22.10.2018; http://webschauder.de/nach-der-
manipulation-ist-vor-der-manipulation/ 

English version: 
After the manipulation is before the manipulation; http://webschauder.de/after-the-manipulation-is-
before-the-manipulation

• 
Youtubes neue Medienordnung, 15.11.2018; http://webschauder.de/youtubes-neue-medienordnung/ 

English version: 
YouTube’s new media order; http://webschauder.de/youtubes-new-media-order/

Some of the FAZ articles are behind a paywall, but they can be reached via the link:
https://www.faz.net/suche/?query=Volker+Rieck&resultsPerPage=20


FDS File Defense Service UG (haftungsbeschränkt),



IVD – Interessenverband des Video- und Medienfachhandels in Deutschland e.V, the German trade
association for video and media distributors,


© FDS / IVD 12/2018                                                                                                                                                                                                       25