By Christopher Williams

Broadband providers have voiced alarm over an EU proposal to create a “Great Firewall of Europe” by blocking “illicit” web material at the borders of the bloc.

Anti-censorship campaigners compared the plan to China’s notorious system for controlling citizens’ access to blogs, news websites and social networking services.

The proposal emerged an obscure meeting of the Council of the European Union’s Law Enforcement Work Party (LEWP), a forum for cooperation on issues such as counter terrorism, customs and fraud.

“The Presidency of the LEWP presented its intention to propose concrete measures towards creating a single secure European cyberspace,” according to brief minutes of the meeting.

The secure European cyberspace would have a “virtual Schengen border”, it adds, referring to the treaty that allows freedom of movement within the EU but imposes controls on entry to the bloc.

There would also be “virtual access points” whereby “the Internet Service Providers would block illicit contents on the basis of the EU ‘black-list’”, the proposal says.

The closed meeting was held in February, but the minutes have only gained attention this week after being published online.

Broadband providers say that illegal content should be removed at the source by cooperation between police and web hosting firms because network blocking can easily be circumvented.

Glyn Moody, a prominent advocate of openness online, said: “They only have to look at how porous the Great Firewall of China is – something that has been created and honed by experts with huge resources.

“They seem completely oblivious of the implications of their daft plan: the imposition of Europe-wide censorship.”

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