MEPs approve removal of online terrorist content within an hour  

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Terrorist content online should be removed within an hour. Photo by Grzegorz Walczak on Unsplash  

Parliament has approved new rules that force internet companies to remove content promoting terrorism within an hour of being informed.

On 28 April, Parliament backed new EU rules to tackle the dissemination of online content promoting terrorism.


Parliament’s priorities


In a move aimed at combatting radicalisation online, Parliament wants internet companies to remove online content promoting terrorism within an hour of receiving an order from national authorities. It is crucial to remove this content within hours of being published because of how fast it spreads. Companies that systematically and persistently fail to abide by the law could be fined up to 4% of their global turnover.


While MEPs want to boost public security, they are also keen to protect free speech and press freedom. MEPs made it clear that content disseminated for educational, journalistic, artistic or research purposes or for awareness-raising purposes to prevent or counter terrorism will not be considered terrorist content. This includes the expression of polemic or controversial views on sensitive political questions. They also underline that hosting service providers should establish user-friendly complaint mechanisms and ensure that complaints are dealt with promptly and in full transparency. .


MEPs also insist that internet companies hosting content uploaded by users, such as Facebook or YouTube, shouldn´t be obliged to proactively identify terrorist content, something that these platforms claim would be a heavy burden for them. Monitoring the information or actively seeking facts indicating illegal activity should be the responsibility of the competent national authority.


Parliament also believes that there should be no compulsory use of filters nor automated tools as this could lead to inaccuracies and innocuous content being tagged as “terrorist” .


How it will work


EU countries will have to designate a competent authority and communicate it to the European Commission, which should then publish a list with all the relevant bodies.


Once the national authorities flag terrorist content, a removal order would be sent to the internet platforms, which would have one hour to delete it or disable access to it in all EU member states.


To help smaller platforms, MEPs propose a sort of prior notice: companies that have never received a removal order should be contacted 12 hours before  the first order to remove content is issued and be given information on procedures and deadlines from the competent authority.


Background


The proposal for this regulation was first presented by the European Commission in September 2018, following a call by EU leaders in June. The Parliament and Council reached a political agreement on this issue in December 2020. The civil liberties committee endorsed the deal in January 2021.