European Union steps up efforts to tackle illegal online content

  • Roman Šulc
  • 5.10.2017 18:07

On 20 September during the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly, representatives of European states expressed their dissatisfaction with the lack of effectiveness in removing illegal content by social media. French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Theresa May and her Italian counterpart Paolo Gentiloni stated that companies such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter should identify and delete terrorist propaganda and other illegal posts in a matter of hours to limit their sharing potential or even completely prevent them from being published.

Kent Walker, representing the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (a joint initiative of Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Youtube), stated that such rapid content removal would pose an enormous technological challenge. Walker also pointed out that Twitter alone canceled almost a million accounts related to terrorism propaganda between August 2015 and July 2017.

The positions on the issue of illegal social media content differ within the European Union. Some states, including France and the United Kingdom, are advocating a stricter approach towards online platforms, considering their current extremists content removal practices insufficient. On the other hand, a number of EU countries, particularly the states of the post-Soviet bloc, are concerned that legislative interventions are a potential threat to the freedom of expression. This approach is shared by the European Commission who favours cooperation with the private sector on a voluntary basis. However, a press release issued on 28 September states that if the situation does not improve in the coming months, further measures, including potential legislative steps, will be considered. In such a case, one of the possible templates is the approach of Germany which adopted new "hate speech" laws on 1 October, allowing to fine social media up to 50 million euros if they fail at deleting prohibited content within set periods of receiving complaints.

About author: Roman Šulc

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