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European Parliament denies filtering emails as spam

Updated It just corrals them if it gets too many
Fri Mar 08 2013, 15:39

THE IT DEPARTMENT at the European Parliament has denied that it is deliberately blocking emails that it does not want its members to see.

The European Parliament was accused of this by Christian Engström, MEP for the Swedish Pirate Party, who called the news an "absolute disgrace" in a blog post about the discovery.

He said that he had been receiving a steady stream of emails about a vote, due on Tuesday, on whether or not the European Parliament will accept a report called "Eliminating gender stereotypes in the EU". The report is contentious because it suggests a ban on all types of pornography in the media.

The email traffic was heavy, but then it stopped, and why? Because someone had dammed them off.

"Around noon, these mails suddenly stopped arriving. When we started investigating why this happened so suddenly, we soon found out. The IT department of the European Parliament is blocking the delivery of the emails on this issue, after some members of the parliament complained about getting emails from citizens," said Engström.

"This is an absolute disgrace, in my opinion. A parliament that views input from citizens on a current issue as spam, has very little democratic legitimacy in my opinion."

Engström is writing a letter to the president of the European Parliament to complain about this "totally undemocratic practice", and he urged citizens to contact their members of the parliament with their views on the report.

"Citizens taking active part in the political process is a fantastic asset for a democratic system, not a spam problem," he added. "I am very disappointed that some of my colleagues in this house evidently have a different opinion."

Engström is apparently still testing the filters and has been sending himself emails from his Pirate Party account to his European Parliament account. Today, International Women's Day, he has found evidence suggesting that the word "gender" is being blocked.

"My guess, without knowing any details about the parliament's filtering system, but understanding the basic principle behind Bayesian spam filtering, is that the word 'gender' (which is quite distinct in this case) probably triggers the filter on all or most occasions," he wrote.

"This is of course only a guess... It appears that today, on International Women's Day, the European Parliament is silently blocking all or most emails that contain the word 'gender'. Welcome to the wonderful world of internet blocking in the EU. And to yet another demonstration of what censorship means in practice."

The official line from the European Parliament is yes, some emails did get filtered, but not for any malicious reasons. Rather it was because there was a flood of them.

"In addition to its normal spam filters, the European Parliament has an alert system in case of an excessive influx of emails affecting the proper functioning of the email-system. In order to protect the email system, filters are then put into place," said the parliament in a statement.

"This system was triggered the 7 March, because of an enormous influx of mails. The measures are automatic and technical and independent of any content or sender; they are solely determined by the high number of identical incoming mails. The emails are placed in 'quarantine' and can be released upon request."

Late on Friday Falkvinge told us that the European Parliament's response "did not look plausible".

"Even uniquely crafted mails seem to get filtered," he added. In a later message he said that the block was still in place and had been confirmed in tests

"Confirmed now by technical tests: the specific words 'gender stereotypes' are used to silently kill mails from voters," he said. µ


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