Home Government Tech Policy EU gives Facebook, Google an hour to remove terrorist content

EU gives Facebook, Google an hour to remove terrorist content

The European Union has tightened the screw on online companies, including Google, Facebook and Twitter, giving them an hour from notification to remove terrorist content which is posted on their platforms.

It said that because terrorist content was particularly harmful in the first hours of its appearance online, companies should, as a general rule, remove such content within one hour of its flagging by law enforcement authorities and Europol.

The EU outlined a series of steps for tackling illegal content online in September 2017; it said new operational measures, announced on 1 March, were meant to be followed in order to determine whether there was a need to go further and propose legislation.

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

Google has been under pressure to remove objectionable material since March last year when videos of unsavoury content, including racist, sexist, terrorist and anti-Semitic material, were found to be attracting ads from reputable companies.

Web companies have struck deals with the EU in the past to take down material like Islamic State videos and information that incites hatred.

According to the new directives, companies and member states will have to submit reports on removal of terrorist content within three months and illegal content within six months.

Under the new measures companies operating in the EU will have to explicitly state in their terms of service that they will not host terrorist content.

They will need to put in place special mechanisms for submission of, and follow-up to, referrals from competent authorities – as well as Europol's Internet Referral Unit.

Fast-track procedures to remove content within one hour of referral will also be required. States have been told to ensure they have the capabilities and resources to detect, identify and notify terrorist content to Internet platforms.

The new measures require proactive steps, including automated detection, to remove or disable terrorist content and stop it from reappearing once it has been removed.

Companies have been told to share and optimise appropriate technological tools and put in place working arrangements for better co-operation with the relevant authorities, including Europol.

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

 

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