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EU gives tech giants one hour deadline to remove terrorist content

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EU gives tech giants one hour deadline to remove terrorist content

Photo © Anatoly Vartanov - Fotolia

(BRUSSELS) - Tech giants Facebook and Google will be given one hour to remove terrorist content from their social media platforms under tighter rules on illegal content online, released Thursday by the EU Commission.

In a follow-up to its September 2017 Communication on tackling illegal content online, the EU executive recommends a set of operational measures – with necessary safeguards – which companies and EU Member States need to take before determining whether to propose legislation, including the one-hour rule for terrorist content.

The list of recommendations applies to all forms of illegal content ranging from terrorist content, incitement to hatred and violence, child sexual abuse material, counterfeit products and copyright infringement.

"Online platforms are becoming people's main gateway to information, so they have a responsibility to provide a secure environment for their users," said the EC's vice-president for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip: "What is illegal offline is also illegal online. 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."

The Recommendation sets out operational measures to ensure faster detection and removal of illegal content online, to reinforce the cooperation between companies, trusted flaggers and law enforcement authorities, and to increase transparency and safeguards for citizens:

  • Clearer 'notice and action' procedures: Companies should set out easy and transparent rules for notifying illegal content, including fast-track procedures for 'trusted flaggers'. To avoid the unintended removal of content which is not illegal, content providers should be informed about such decisions and have the opportunity to contest them.
  • More efficient tools and proactive technologies: Companies should set out clear notification systems for users. They should have proactive tools to detect and remove illegal content, in particular for terrorism content and for content which does not need contextualisation to be deemed illegal, such as child sexual abuse material or counterfeited goods.
  • Stronger safeguards to ensure fundamental rights: To ensure that decisions to remove content are accurate and well-founded, especially when automated tools are used, companies should put in place effective and appropriate safeguards, including human oversight and verification, in full respect of fundamental rights, freedom of expression and data protection rules.
  • Special attention to small companies: Theindustry should, through voluntary arrangements, cooperate and share experiences, best practices and technological solutions, including tools allowing for automatic detection.This shared responsibility should particularly benefit smaller platforms with more limited resources and expertise.
  • Closer cooperation with authorities: If there is evidence of a serious criminal offence or a suspicion that illegal content is posing a threat to life or safety, companies should promptly inform law enforcement authorities. Member States are encouraged to establish the appropriate legal obligations.

These measures may differ according to the nature of the illegal content, and the Recommendation encourages companies to follow the principle of proportionality when removing illegal content.

Terrorist content online poses a particularly grave risk to the security of Europeans, and its proliferation must be treated as a matter of the utmost urgency. This is why the Commission is today additionally recommending more specific provisions to further curb terrorist content online:

  • One-hour rule: Considering that terrorist content is most harmful in the first hours of its appearance online, all companies should remove such content within one hour from its referral as a general rule.
  • Faster detection and effective removal: In addition to referrals, internet companies should implement proactive measures, including automated detection, to effectively and swiftly remove or disable terrorist content and stop it from reappearing once it has been removed. To assist smaller platforms, companies should share and optimise appropriate technological tools and put in place working arrangements for better cooperation with the relevant authorities, including Europol.
  • Improved referral system: Fast-track procedures should be put in place to process referrals as quickly as possible, while Member States need to ensure they have the necessary capabilities and resources to detect, identify and refer terrorist content.
  • Regular reporting: Member States should on a regular basis, preferably every three months, report to the Commission on referrals and their follow-up as well as on overall cooperation with companies to curb terrorist online content.

The Commission will now monitor the actions taken in response to this Recommendation and determine whether additional steps, including, if necessary legislation, are required. Member States and companies will be required to submit relevant information on terrorist content within three months, and other illegal content within six months.

Commission Recommendation on measures to effectively tackle illegal content online - background guide

Factsheet on Illegal Content Online


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