Upload Filters are Already Broken


The European Union plans for introducing a mandatory censorship machine to filter all uploads. Unfortunately, even if “there is scientific consensus that Article 13 cannot be allowed to stand”, legislators suggest deciding this on pure principle and ignore all evidence that points to huge chilling effects. On top of that, most European Parliament members seem to have no idea how upload filters work now and how bad they already are.

With help from a grant from Create•Refresh, we’ve made this short 3 minute video about how today’s filters censor and take down legal content without any repercussions.

Transcript and sources

A filtering system for Internet uploads doesn’t sound that bad. It’s for safety, not censorship, right? Here’s a glimpse at how well it works now.

  • Samsung used filters like these to take down videos they didn’t like, which were mocking their exploding phones;
  • A video of a purring cat was deemed “piracy” of a song owned not by one, but two record labels. Yes, Mr. Whiskers, you’ll be getting that platinum record in the mail real soon;
  • An anti-piracy firm took down an entire list of videos with the word “Pixels” in the title just to protect their movie “Pixels”, a failed attempt at a blockbuster;
  • Fox censored video game footage from an old 1980s game, after Family Guy used a clip from that very same video in an episode;
  • A Harvard lecture on copyright problems was taken down because of copyright problems.

These things happen all the time. We only hear about them when people fight back. But most creators don’t have the know-how and can easily be intimidated with a lawyer’s letter. The easiest way to remove something from the internet now is to accuse a creator of infringing copyright.

Copyright law has specific checks and balances that grant you the freedom to remix, document, parody, critique or reference a work without anyone’s permission. But automated filters often ignore the law, in order to enforce it.

  • Film critics regularly have their negative reviews burried through copyright takedowns;
  • Political speech gets censored when it criticizes politicians or news outlets;
  • Musicians get extorted by people who claim ownership over music that’s not theirs;
  • Institutions and bloggers are sued in order to silence criticism and to have information concealed;
  • Copyright is also used to keep mistakes or embarrassments out of the public eye,
  • By companies, to silence researchers that try to unmask them,
  • And even famous speeches about freedom are being taken down.

There are no rules in place for abusers and there are no automated robots who can distinguish between legal and illegal uses. Even complaints from trusted sources have a 99,95% probability they’re not even real.

An upload filter with an extreme view on ownership will only stifle creativity and innovation. Are you sure you’re ready for this brave, new Internet?

Creativity can’t be censored. Say no to Article 13 from EU’s copyright proposal.



Script: Ioana Pelehatăi & Alex Lungu
Visuals: Anna Florea
Sound Design: Ștefan Teodorescu
Voice Over: Ioana Pelehatăi
Edit, Animation & Production: Alex Lungu

Daniel Birch – Too Late To Turn Back // CC-BY
Podington Bear – Uptown // CC-BY-NC

Visual Elements:
British Library
Wellcome Collection