from the Gag Law to the Digital Decree

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Governments of both colors have been trying to regulate the internet for years. and unfortunately freedom of expression is the great victim. Laws, proposals and reforms that, relying on aspects such as intellectual property, security or the fight against terrorism, have been limiting what users can publish on the network or speeding up the process of blocking web pages.

From the Sinde Law, which marked the beginning of the defense of fundamental rights on the Internet in Spain, to recent reforms such as that of the Intellectual Property Law. These are the projects that we have been warning about all these years and that have progressively undermined our freedom on the Internet.

sinde law

sinde law

In 2011, the PSOE government approved the Sustainable Economy Law, better known as the Sinde Law. It was then that copyright was placed above other fundamental rights, allowing a body dependent on the Ministry of Culture could prevent access to any web page. A law that removed judges from the equation when it came to blocking pages and gave great powers to rights management associations.

What the PSOE, PP, Podemos, Ciudadanos and Vox programs say about intellectual property and the Internet

Reform of the Intellectual Property Law (2014)

Google news

In 2014, with the PP in government, the reform of the Intellectual Property Law was approved. Fines for link pages were tightened and the Canon AEDE whereby content aggregators had to pay copyright entities. A reform that introduced the concept of “private copying”, expelled Google News from Spain and gave more powers to administrative bodies to suspend domains.

Chronicle of the biggest internet robbery ever perpetrated

Penal Code Reform (2015)

Penal Code Reform

With the reform of the Penal Code, specific mentions were included for the ‘Revenge Porn’ and limitations for cyberactivism. Prison sentences were also added for those who facilitate the removal of DRM and penalties were introduced for those who issue “messages or slogans” that incite to disturb public order. A preview of what would later be included in the Gag Law.

Criminal Procedure Law

In 2015, the so-called Torquemada Law opened the door for a judge to order the installation of spyware to investigate any crime on the network and the creation of the figure of “undercover computer agents”.

Also that year there was a new anti-terrorist agreement where, with the precept of fighting against the terrorist threat, many user rights were limited. A trend that continues in 2021, where the European Union will allow content to be censored in less than an hour without going through the judge.

Citizen Security Law (Gag Law)


Approved in March 2015, the Citizen Security Law established penalties for tweeting calls for demonstrations or protests and it was forbidden to publish photos of police officers. This law, together with the reform of the criminal code and the anti-terrorist law, is what was popularly known as the Gag Law. A turning point in the freedoms of the network and a “criminalization of the Internet” that is still very present.

“In Spain, people have been sentenced to prison for a joke or a song. He has also fined and detained journalists when they were reporting. Or prison has been requested for media that have published leaks. And the rules that allow all this are still in force, so it can continue to happen,” complaint Virginia Pérez Alonso, president of the Platform in Defense of Freedom of Information (PDLI).

Forcing the identity of users

“We want that behind the accounts on social networks there is always an identity and that the user knows that he is identified,” explained Rafael Hernando, spokesman for the PP. It was a parliamentary initiative with the aim of forcing users to use their “real administrative identity” when registering.

Maintaining anonymity is a fundamental right and any norm that tried to prohibit or limit it “would probably be unconstitutional”, explained the lawyer Carlos Sanchez Almeida.

In favor of saving anonymity on the internet: why we are against curtailing freedom of expression

Proposal to reform the Law on the right to honor

Another non-law proposal was the reform of the Organic Law for the protection of the right to honour, to personal and family privacy and to one’s own image. An initiative to specify attacks on honor via the internet. Fortunately it did not take place. “We are concerned about this reform because the Internet does not require special laws: The same rights and obligations must exist in the Network as outside itand the current regulations on the right to honor already cover these assumptions”, explained Perez Alonso.

Organic Law on Data Protection and Digital Rights


At the end of 2018, the new Organic Law on Data Protection and Digital Rights was approved. A reform endorsed by all the parties and that opens the door for elaborate ideological profiles of citizens with the data displayed on the Internet and being able to send electoral propaganda without prior consent.

As clarified by the Spanish Agency for Data Protection, the collection by the parties of personal data is only to “obtain information that allows them to press the concerns of citizens in order to be able to respond to their electoral proposals.”

The norm also expanded the scope of the right of digital rectification and the right to be forgotten. A law that, among other aspects, made it easier for certain politicians to force the rectification of compromised information that has not yet been proven.

Reform of the Intellectual Property Law (“New Law Sinde”)


In February 2019, the new Intellectual Property Law was finally approved. A “new Sinde Law” agreed by PSOE, PP and Ciudadanos that supposes a hardening of the original Sinde Law. The new law further reduces the role of judges and allows the Government to close web pages without having the need for judicial authorization. A case that we saw at the end of 2019 with the closure of Exvagos ordered by the Ministry of Culture.

“This is how they definitively culminate in getting the judges off their backs. This same proposal to completely liquidate judicial control to close websites is what they stopped in 2011 because it was a pill too big for our swallows,” explained David Bravo, a lawyer specializing in computer law and intellectual property.

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Digital Decree

Digital Decree

At the end of 2019, Royal Decree Law 14/2019 was approved, by which the Government can allege “public order reasons” to intervene in any infrastructure, associated resource or network level. The measure modifies the General Telecommunications Law to grant the government these powers. “A botched law that in the wrong hands can be dangerous,” Almeida pointed out.

Proposal to remove hate messages

At the request of United We Can, Congress approved the ‘No Law Proposal on the prevention of the spread of hate speech in the digital space’. Among other measures, it proposed the creation of a single tool against hate speech and establishing a maximum time to eliminate reported content. The problem is that once again an attempt is made to eliminate the figure of the judge to determine what a “hate message” is.

Europe will force Big Tech to explain their algorithms, but has given up too much power along the way

Monitor networks to chase hoaxes


Disinformation and the fight against ‘fake news’ is another of the battles that governments have used to justify their legislation. In April 2020, the PSOE government proposed legal changes to prevent “those who pollute public opinion” from going unpunished.

I don’t think fighting hoaxes requires a specific type. I don’t think so because there can’t be an all-encompassing type of all types of hoaxes. That would take a long time and I don’t think we are at the best time to reform the Penal Code,” explained Borja Adsuara, professor and expert lawyer in Law.

In November 2020, the Government published its ‘Procedure for action against disinformation’, where the creation of a commission to decide when news is ‘fake news’.

A threat runs through Europe: that of the governments that want to be the ones that discriminate false news from true

Weekly listings to block download pages


In April 2021, the Government reached an agreement with the Coalition of Creators, the DigitalES employers’ association and the main telecommunications operators to persecute download websites. Among the measures, a technical committee is established whose task will be to prepare weekly lists of websites that replicate the contents of others already indicated by previous court rulings. A committee in charge of managing the blocking of websites without going through the judge.

copyright policy

iceta law

Initially known as the Uribes Law, in reference to the Minister of Culture José Manuel Rodríguez Uribes, and later as the Iceta Law, in reference to Miquel Iceta. This is a reform of the Intellectual Property Law to incorporate the controversial copyright directive that will allow platforms, such as Google itself, to censor content without requiring prior judicial approval.

However, this transposition process at the end of 2021 went further. The adaptation not only brought algorithmic censorship, but also applied it to live broadcasts. A point not added in the original directive and that will allow live streamers to be censored.

A small victory for freedom of expression: European Justice recognizes the dangers of the Copyright Directive

The direct beneficiary is the Professional Football League. It is a tailor-made law. As well as for Netflix, Movistar, HBO or Amazon”, explained the lawyer Sanchez Almeida.

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Governments of both colors have been trying to regulate the internet for years. and unfortunately freedom of expression is the…

Governments of both colors have been trying to regulate the internet for years. and unfortunately freedom of expression is the…

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