March 2, 2018 // 10:42 a.m.
The European Commission has set out new recommendations for technology companies in a bid to attack illegal online content, including the requirement that 'terrorist content' be removed within an hour of notification.
A follow-up to a September 2017 pledge, the European Commission's operational measures - recommendations to member states, not mandatory legislation at present - are aimed at reducing all forms of illegal content ranging from terrorist content, incitement to hatred and violence, and child sexual abuse material all the way through to counterfeit products and copyright infringement. 'Online platforms are becoming people's main gateway to information, so they have a responsibility to provide a secure environment for their users,' explains Andrus Ansip, vice-president for the digital single market. '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.'
The EC's operational measures include special consideration of terrorist content, including the so-called 'one hour rule': the requirement that terrorist content be removed within an hour of its hosting company being notified of its existence. Other recommendations include an improved referral system to get notifications to hosts as quickly as possible, proactive measures to detect and remove content automatically and prevent its reappearance, and three-monthly reports from member states to the EC on referrals made and their outcomes.
For more general illegal content, the recommendations include companies implementing clearer procedures for notification and fast-track systems for 'trusted flaggers', improved censorship tools and proactive monitoring, cooperation between companies to allow smaller companies to meet the recommendations, and improved cooperation with legal authorities.
At present, these are mere recommendations; the EC, however, has indicated that it will be watching closely to see if any legislative measures are required.