Commission Urges EU States To Toughen Approach To Terrorists, Illegal Online Content

Emmanuel Dunard  AFP  Getty Images
Andrus Ansip Vice President of the European Commission

Emmanuel Dunard AFP Getty Images Andrus Ansip Vice President of the European Commission

The Commission said that illegal content online not only undermines the trust of European Union citizens, but also poses security threats.

"While several platforms have been removing more illegal content than ever before-showing that self-regulation can work-we still need to react faster against terrorist propaganda and other illegal content which is a serious threat to our citizens' security, safety and fundamental rights", said Andrus Ansip, the commission vice president in charge of coordinating digital issues.

Companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google are under increasing pressure to remove extremist content at a faster pace.

The EU already has voluntary agreements that it struck with the biggest web companies to take down terrorist content, such as Islamic State propaganda videos, and to remove from their websites information visible in Europe that incites hatred.

Among the specific provisions for curbing terrorist content online, the commission recommended a "one-hour rule" aimed at removing all illegal content within 60 minutes from its referral.

They also state that the first hour in which a piece of this illegal content is up is the time in which it does the most damage.

While automation can expedite the identification and removal process, humans should oversee the process to make sure takedowns aren't excessive, the WSJ said.

The guidelines aren't legally binding, but courts could use the framework as a legal reference in the future.

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft all agreed in 2016 to review and remove a majority of hate speech within 24 hours.

Exhausted of waiting while social media platforms and websites hem and haw over what to do about illegal content, the European Commission on Thursday set the bar high at least when it comes to terrorist content: Pull it down within an hour.

The Commission will monitor the actions taken in response to this Recommendation and determine whether additional steps, including, if necessary legislation, are required.
Digital rights group EDRi warned in a statement that the European Union is seeking to avoid new rules and instead is "pushing "voluntary' censorship to internet giants".

The Commission said it would assess the need for legislation within three months for what it described as "terrorist content", given the urgency of the issue. "Today's recommendation institutionalizes a role for Facebook and Google in regulating the free speech of Europeans". Illegal content is deleted from larger servers but then reappears on small and medium-sized platforms.

Only legislation would ensure democratic scrutiny and judicial review.

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