Preventing the dissemination of terrorist content online

In “Promoting our European Way of Life”

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For a brief overview of the key points of the adopted text and its significance for the citizen, please see the corresponding summary note.

In September 2017, the European Commission presented a communication containing guidelines and principles on prevention, detection and removal of illegal content online, including hatred, violence and terrorist propaganda. In March 2018, the Commission adopted a recommendation, including a set of non-binding operational measures to be taken by online providers and Member States to tackle illegal content online. The Commission conducted an open public consultation between 30 April and 25 June 2018.

On 12 September 2018, the European Commission presented a proposal for a regulation on preventing the dissemination of terrorist content online, which included:

  • The one-hour rule: a legally binding one-hour deadline for content to be removed following a removal order from national competent authorities;
  • A definition of terrorist content as material that incites or advocates committing terrorist offences, promotes the activities of a terrorist group or provides instructions and techniques for committing terrorist offences;
  • The duty of care obligation for all platforms to ensure they are not misused for the dissemination of terrorist content; given a possible risk of dissemination via their platforms, service providers might also be required to take proactive measures to better protect their platforms and their users from terrorist abuse;
  • A framework for strengthened co-operation between hosting service providers, Member States and Europol; service providers and Member States will be required to designate points of contact reachable 24/7 to facilitate the follow up to removal orders and referrals;
  • Effective complaint mechanisms to be established by all service providers  where content has been removed unjustifiably, the service provider will be required to reinstate it as soon as possible; effective judicial remedies will be provided by national authorities and platforms and content providers will have the right to challenge removal orders; for platforms using automated detection tools, human oversight and verification should be in place to prevent erroneous removals;
  • Transparency and accountability will be guaranteed by annual transparency reports and Member States will have to put in place financial penalties for non-compliance with removal orders, possibly going up to 4% of the global turnover of the last business year.

On 6 December 2018, the Justice and Home Affairs Council agreed its negotiating position on the proposal. On 6 February 2019, the Parliament requested an opinion from the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) on the key fundamental rights implications of the proposal. FRA considers that the definition of terrorist content has to be modified, as it broadens the terms of the directive on combating terrorism. After receiving the reports from IMCO and CULT, on 8 April 2019, the LIBE Committee debated and voted on the draft report on the proposal. One of the issues was the compliance of the proposal with the existing legislation on electronic commerce and on audiovisual media services. The plenary adopted the amended proposal in first reading on 17 April 2019. According to the amended text, service providers could face sanctions up to 4% of their global turnover if they systematically and persistently fail to abide by the legislation on terrorist content. There is no obligation to monitor or filter the content, even though the service providers have the obligation to withdraw the illegal content within an hour.

A new rapporteur, Mr Patryk Jaki (ECR, PL) has been appointed on 4 September 2019 by the LIBE Committee. Julia Ward (S&D, UK) has been appointed as rapporteur by CULT as associated committee. IMCO has appointed Marcel Kolaja (Greens/EFA, CZ) as rapporteur. On 9 October 2019, the Committee decision to enter into interinstitutional negotiations was announced in the plenary.

On 10 December 2020, the Parliament and the Council presidency reached a political agreement on the proposal. On 11 January 2021, the LIBE Committee approved the agreed text. In the agreed final text, the definition of terrorist content is fully aligned with the Directive on combating terrorism. The agreement upholds the one hour rule. Voluntary cooperation with the HSPs will continue, but, as was requested by Parliament, the competent authorities in the member state where the HSP has its main establishment have the right to scrutinise the removal order and to block its execution if they consider it violates fundamental rights. Depending on the decision taken after the challenge, the content either becomes available again or is permanently deleted. HSPs and content providers will have 48 hours to contest the removal order from the country of origin. The agreement also includes exceptions when the material is disseminated for educational, journalistic, artistic or research purposes, or to prevent or counter terrorism. This also includes content expressing polemic or controversial views in a public debate. Furthermore, there will be no obligation for internet platforms to monitor or filter content, unless when they are exposed to terrorist content. In that case the HSP decides on those measures but there will be no obligation to use automated tools. Those HSPs that have taken action against the dissemination of terrorist content in a given year will have to publish transparency reports on the action taken. The Member States will lay down the rules on penalties in case of non-compliance with the legislation, taking into account the nature, gravity and duration of the infringement, as well as whether the infringement was intentional or negligent.

After the Council adopted the text on 16 March 2021, the European Parliament approved it with a vote in the plenary on 28 May 2021. The regulation entered into force on 6 June 2021 and will apply as of 7 June 2022.

References:

Author: Costica Dumbrava, Members' Research Service, legislative-train@europarl.europa.eu

As of 20/03/2024.