The Spanish State Can Shut Down Websites Without a Court Order in Cases of “Threats to Public Order”

Since Wednesday, the Spanish government has the authority to shut down websites without a court order in cases of urgent threats to “public order, public security and national security.” This is reflected in the decree promoted by the executive led by Pedro Sánchez, which was published in the Official Spanish Gazette (BOE) on Tuesday and became effective on Wednesday.

The Spanish government is now authorized to intervene or stop servers that host social networks or websites in cases of “public disorder.” This could already be done earlier, but only with a court order. With this modification, no “prior hearing” will be necessary, and there is a risk that the government will apply it to curtail basic fundamental rights, especially in cases of political dissidents and peaceful demonstrations.

These are cases enshrined in the decree where the Spanish government is authorized to shut down websites:

a) When there is an immediate and serious threat to public order, public safety or national security.

b) When there is an immediate and serious threat to public health.

c) When the alleged infringing activity could result in serious damage to the operation of the services of emergencies, public security and civil protection.

d) When it seriously interferes with the electronic communication of other services or networks.

e) When it might be used to provoke a serious economic or operational problem for other providers or users of electronic communications networks or services or other users of the radio spectrum.

According to the text the government can also intervene in elements that necessarily accompany “the installation or deployment of a network” or “a communications service.”

In this way it opens the door to interrupt any “infrastructure for public networks of electronic communications, its associated resources or any element or level of the network or the service in order to preserve or restore public order, public security and national security.” 

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