Friday

17th Aug 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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

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 more privacy 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".

News in Brief

  1. Germany and Greece strike deal on taking back migrants
  2. Merkel confronts far-right critics: '2015 will not be repeated'
  3. UN: Predictable disembarkation process urgently needed
  4. Slovenia set to select former comedian as prime minister
  5. Polish president to veto election rule helping big parties
  6. MEPs blast UK 'alphabetical approach' on citizens rights
  7. EU hits back over Salvini's blame for bridge collapse
  8. Poll: Sweden's social democrat-led government set to win again

Opinion

The systemic risk that Europe has to face

One of the biggest systemic risks across Europe, illustrated by Hungary and Poland, is the dominance of the executive power over the judiciary and informal channels of political dependency.

Schengen at stake in Austria-Germany talks

German interior minister Horst Seehofer is in Vienna on Thursday - as his plan to reject some asylum seekers was met by an Austrian threat to close its borders too.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  2. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  3. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  4. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  5. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  6. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  8. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  12. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma

Latest News

  1. 'Nativism' and the upcoming Swedish and Bavarian elections
  2. Former Malta opposition leader fears for his life
  3. Women shun EU-funded site for female entrepreneurs
  4. Building a Europe more resilient to terrorism
  5. Brexit talks resume as chance of 'no deal' put at 50:50
  6. US trial sheds light on murky Cyprus-Russia links
  7. Burned cars fuel Swedish election debate
  8. EU court to hear citizens' climate case against EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  4. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  6. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  8. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  9. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  11. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  12. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us