Memes. You've seen them, shared them, and maybe even created them. Now, as part of a new law called the EU Copyright Directive, memes face potential censorship by giants like Facebook, Reddit, and 4chan. The new law is not specifically targeting memes, although memes fall under the wide umbrella of the types of information that could potentially become censored, according to Wired.
Article 13 of the Copyright Directive says that large websites must use "content recognition technologies" to find copyrighted videos, photos, text, and even code. The "content" also includes sound, reported Gizmodo. Currently, some large website companies are already using such content recognition technologies. For example, YouTube uses an AI system and human employees to censor inappropriate uploads.
The sweeping call for censorship has received large amounts of criticism. Around 70 notable figures from the tech industry signed an open letter to the President of the European Parliament. The message was that Article 13 would infringe on basic freedoms like the freedom of speech and education. Also, Article 13 makes it virtually impossible for small businesses to continue operating since the required content recognition technologies cost a ton of money.
Other critics have pointed out that these content recognition technologies are not flawless. For example, an image that looks similar to a copyrighted image could be flagged accidentally.
Also, as documented by Wired, activist Cory Doctorow mentioned that "something like having your protest footage blocked because of a passing motorist whose car radio was blaring a pop song - it is a match, but not one that infringes copyright."