Wednesday

24th Jan 2018

Commission: 120 minutes to remove illegal online content

The European Commission is demanding social media platforms share illegal content with police amid broader threats of imposing EU-wide legislation to enforce the takedown of such material.

In a closed-door meeting in Brussels on Tuesday (9 January) between several EU commissioners and some 20 firms, the commission also demanded swifter removals.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

EU home affairs commissioner Dimitris Avramopolous said removals should not take more than two hours.

"Information on removed content should be shared with law enforcement so it can be used as evidence in investigations," he said, along side commissioners Andrus Ansip, Elzbieta Bienkowska, Vera Jourova, Julian King and Mariya Gabriel.

Their demand is part of a broader effort by the EU to coerce the firms to take swifter action against online content deemed to incite hatred, violence and terrorism.

But what constitutes such an incitement to hatred, violence and terrorism is often open to interpretation.

The EU commission, in a paper last September, said "what is illegal offline is also illegal online" although national rules may differ on similar content.

Internet platforms will have to look at individual member state rules, understand and apply their respective cases laws on things like hate speech, and then decide if the content should be removed.

Europol, the EU police agency, already has a special unit designed to refer the content to internet service providers.

But figures on how many referrals led to investigations is unknown given that the agency does not keep such data.

Critics say US firms at risk of fines are instead more likely to remove questionable content regardless of whether it is actually illegal.

"Facebook and Twitter will censor legal material because they are scared of fines," the London-based NGO, Open Rights Group, told the BBC in December.

The firms, which broadly oppose having to police the web, instead want clear regulations, according to EU justice commissioner Jourova.

"Many of them [Silicon Valley] told me that we do not feel ourselves comfortable by being those who decide on this," she told reporters in September.

8,000 tweets per second

The task is large.

Every second around 8,000 messages are posted on Twitter. Over 72,000 people per second view a YouTube video. Another 820 images per second are also uploaded to Instagram.

Earlier this month, Titanic, a German satirical magazine had its Twitter account banned after poking fun at a right-wing AfD member, which poses questions on freedom of expression.

Twitter, along with other social media platforms, now face a potential €50 million fine in Germany since the start of the year if content that violates German hate speech laws is not removed within 24 hours.

Last September, the French ministry of interior had also ordered two Indymedia websites to remove content deemed a "provocation to terrorism".

The same content had been published in more mainstream media outlets but without recrimination from the ministry.

But EU security commissioner King, in a tweet, said more action is needed by the companies.

"Today we discussed, with industry, the need for faster action. If possible on a voluntary basis - but, if necessary we'll look at further steps," he said.

Last year's commission's paper on illegal content, known as a communication, was widely criticised by MEPs who said its ideas on automatic detection of bad content risked undermining rule of law.

The paper also followed the adaption of an EU terrorism directive, which leaves concepts like the definition of indirect incitement to terrorism open to national interpretation.

"The respect for human rights is not an obstacle to security, it is a route towards stronger and better security," Michael O'Flaherty, the director of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, told MEPs on Monday.

EU wants tech firms to police internet

The European Commission wants private companies to police the internet for hate speech. But civil groups and CEOs of major tech firms object, preferring clear rules and regulations.

EU says Spanish website seizures were legal

Spanish authorities are blocking pro-Catalan websites in the lead up to the referendum in October. Asked whether freedom of expression was being undermined, the EU commission refused to comment.

Macron vows law against fake news

French president Emmanuel Macron has promised legislation to block the spread of fake news, as part of a broader effort to protect liberal democracies from Russian propaganda.

Facebook promises privacy reboot ahead of new EU rules

Speaking in Brussels, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, says the social media giant has "not done enough to stop the abuse of our technology." Her admission comes with new plans to wrestle with "bad content".

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Free AlllianceNo Justice From the Spanish Supreme Court Ruling
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Solutions for Sustainable Cities: New Grants Awarded for Branding Projects
  3. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersOresund Inspires Other EU Border Regions to Work Together to Generate Growth
  5. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  6. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Calls on EU to Sanction Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Expel Ambassadors
  7. Dialogue PlatformRoundtable on "Political Islam, Civil Islam and The West" 31 January
  8. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement and Same-Sex Couples in Romania – Case Update!
  9. EU2017EEEstonia Completes First EU Presidency, Introduced New Topics to the Agenda
  10. Bio-Based IndustriesLeading the Transition Towards a Post-Petroleum Society
  11. ACCAWelcomes the Start of the New Bulgarian Presidency
  12. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li and President Tusk Stress Importance of Ties at ASEM Summit

Latest News

  1. Lessons for EU from the Greek tragedy
  2. A new dynamic on the Macedonia name issue
  3. Berlusconi in Brussels on pre-election charm offensive
  4. ECJ should rule against Austrian online censorship lawsuit
  5. EU states loosen grip on tax havens
  6. Facebook promises privacy reboot ahead of new EU rules
  7. Europe is lacking tech leadership
  8. Spitzenkandidat system here to stay, MEPs warn capitals

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EEVAT on Electronic Commerce: New Rules Adopted
  2. European Jewish CongressChair of EU Parliament Working Group on Antisemitism Condemns Wave of Attacks
  3. Counter BalanceA New Study Challenges the Infrastructure Mega Corridors Agenda
  4. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  5. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% Plastics Recycling Rate Attainable by 2025 New Study Shows
  6. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  7. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  8. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  9. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  11. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  12. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City