EU gives tech companies three months to combat terrorist content

1 Mar 2018

EU Commission building in Brussels. Image: Zurijeta/Shutterstock

Companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google are under increasing pressure to remove extremist content at a faster pace.

Social media and other internet companies have been scrutinised heavily by the European Commission (EC) over what it sees as their failure to handle dangerous content uploaded to their respective platforms.

The EU had put some measures in place previously, which saw firms like Facebook and Twitter submit their progress to officials in order to measure their efforts in the battle against extremism of all varieties.

Digital commissioner Andrus Ansip said: “While several platforms have been removing more illegal content than ever before … 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.”

Three months to act

The EC will assess the need for legislation within three months if notable improvements are not made on so-called ‘terrorist content’, which many figureheads blame for attacks that have claimed lives in a number of EU cities.

Tech firms will need to remove terrorist content within an hour of it being flagged by law enforcement or Europol. The EC has stressed that humans must oversee the content removal process in order to ensure that content is not taken down due to an error within an automated monitoring system.

Criticism from activists

Some internet activists feel that these measures could lead to excessive censorship of freedom of expression. Executive director of European Digital Right (EDRi), Joe McNamee, said the EC is pushing ‘voluntary’ censorship to internet firms “to avoid legislation that would be subject to democratic scrutiny and judicial challenge”.

He added that “the commission needs to be smart and to finally start developing policy based on reliable data and not public relations spin”.

The EDRi group said that the EC’s decision is part of a trend that uses the ‘threat’ of legislation to force internet companies into heavy policing of their platforms. The group previously supplied the EC with its own set of recommendations for a more targeted and data-driven approach to solving this problem.

EU governments and firms will report their findings to the EC every three months, which will help the commission determine whether it needs to draft legislation in the area.

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects