The EU expects that internet platforms remove terrorist and illegal content within the hour of its posting. If companies fail to comply with recommendations, the Commission will take legal action. Critics fear this rule could lead to censorship and other unintended consequences.
Voluntary adherence, or Else
The EU has announced a new rule demanding that online terrorist liked content to be removed within one hour of posting. The commission issued a number of recommendations to the tech industry, in hopes of making tech companies their allies in the fight against terrorist propaganda. Many companies are already removing illegal content, but authorities say they aren’t acting fast enough. With the speed of information transmission, Europol says that harmful information does the most damage in the first few hours of publication.
Recommendations are not compulsory, and the EU hopes that companies will be willing to follow them on their own. Some sites have responded with willingness, so there is evidence that the media will self police. If not enough companies adopt these recommendations as of policies though, the EU will move to make recommendation become law. Other recommendations include a better-automated detection protocol for terrorist-linked content and streamlined removal procedures.
Among the companies complying with EU demands, Google and Facebook lead the way. The tech giants are putting on an optimistic public face, but are unsure if they will be able to deliver one hour removal times. Google has been hiring people and investing in AI and machine learning technologies with the hope of increasing security and decreasing illicit activity on their platforms. Facebook shares the concerns of the European Commission in regards to terrorist and illegal content.
One hour may not be enough time…
Critics warn that a one-hour time limit is too stringent, and could lead to unintentional censorship. EDiMA, the tech sector understands the need to remove terrorist content as quickly as possible, but businesses must take user rights into account. EDiMA is a European Trade association that includes Facebook, Twitter, and Google. They worry that the one hour rule could do more harm than good, but crippling the effectiveness of service providers.
European Digital Rights is another group that sees problems with this new rule. The group points out that in some cases, data should not be taken down so quickly. Without proper time to assess the information, removing data could interfere with criminal investigations or have other unintended negative effects. They also say that this rule is asking the internet to adopt voluntary censorship, which is no substitute for actual policy. Legal action would at least take the democratic process into account. As it stands, these recommendations circumvent the normal process for policymaking.