This is a guest blog by Michiel Steltman, Director of DINL (Dutch Digital Infrastructure Association).
The enormous growth of the online economy in the last two decades has made the Netherlands a strong player in the online world. The AMS-IX, world’s largest Internet exchange, has attracted many carrier neutral datacenters and enabled a substantial hosting industry. Which in turn has attracted major Internet brands. Next to the Rotterdam Harbor and Schiphol Airport our Digital Infrastructure is now Holland’s third main port which made the Netherlands also the digital gateway to Europe. It fuels Cloud as the new style of IT, it enables innovations and startups and it provides a strong base for Holland’s future knowledge- and services based economy.
But this growth and dominant position has a flip side. Where money is at stake and opportunities to disseminate information are endless, criminal activity and abuse inevitably occur as well. Consequently the Netherlands is no exception. Despite our small size our country stands out in statistics about cybercrime and badness such as CAM (Child Abuse material), copyright infringements, phishing, spam, botnet activity and many more. A fact that companies, foundations and sector organizations in the Netherlands are quite aware of. This is why they feel a special responsibility to join forces to fight abuse and cybercrime.
Enforcing law and fighting abuse and cybercrime in the digital world requires a different approach than in the physical world. This is because on the Internet the actual perpetrator is more than often difficult to find or identify. And the hosting company or datacenter is not directly involved because they only provide the server space of digital facilities that are being used for the illegal activity. Police, law enforcement or private companies cannot act to remove content. Even if they were permitted to do that, they would now know what to do and how to act without causing collateral damage. A cooperative approach is the only way.
This is why the Netherlands online sector has developed the voluntary code of conduct called the “notice and takedown” (NTD). The NTD is based on the philosophy of a free, open and safe Internet, and of a minimal interference of governments within the Internet. Providers of digital infrastructure are in principle considered as neutral and content-agnostic intermediaries. The takedown procedure is accessible for individuals or companies whose rights have been violated (government bodies such as police or prosecution use other ways to claim takedowns).
The NTD code of conduct is now in existence for more than a decade and has proven to be a very effective instrument for fighting abuse. With just a few exceptions, datacenter and hosting companies in the Netherlands apply the code strictly. Leaseweb, as one of the bigger companies, sets the tone by consistently responding quickly, constantly improving its procedures, providing transparency reports and statistics, and by actively participating in the NTD committee. The results are clearly visible. The Netherlands are doing well in fighting CSAM (Child Sexual Abuse Material), botnet activity is substantially reduced and fraudulent webshops are effectively banned from NL hosting platforms. The code has without any doubt prevented unnecessary legislation. The sector continues to develop and improve the code. Further automation, standardization and the mechanism of trusted notifiers will result in a further decrease in volume and uptime of unlawful activities.
The NTD code of conduct protects a free, open and secure Internet. It has now become the most popular and leading approach towards fighting badness on the Internet. Not just in the Netherlands, but also in many other countries. A fact that the Netherlands is proud of!