10 December 2020
The Council of the EU and the European Parliament have reached a provisional agreement on the text of the proposed Regulation on addressing the dissemination of terrorist content online, a controversial proposal that raises numerous fundamental rights concerns. The announcement comes following a series of secret "trilogue" meetings. Numerous organisations, including Statewatch, have previously called for changes to the text in order to protect individual rights; it remains to be seen what is in the final Regulation, which now has to be approved by votes in the Council and the Parliament as a whole.
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The EU is working to stop terrorists from using the internet to radicalise, recruit and incite to violence. Today, the Council Presidency and the European Parliament reached a provisional agreement on a draft regulation on addressing the dissemination of terrorist content online.
The aim of the legislation is a swift removal of terrorist content online and to establish one common instrument for all member states to this effect. The proposed rules will apply to hosting service providers offering services in the EU, whether or not they have their main establishment in the member states. Voluntary cooperation with these companies will continue, but the legislation will provide additional tools for member states to enforce the rapid removal of terrorist content where necessary. The draft legislation provides for a clear scope and a clear uniform definition of terrorist content in order to fully respect the fundamental rights protected in the EU's legal order and notably those guaranteed in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU.
Competent authorities in the member states will have the power to issue removal orders to the service providers, to remove terrorist content or disable access to it in all member states. The service providers will then have to remove or disable access to the content within one hour. Competent authorities in the member states where the service provider is established receive a right to scrutiny removal orders issued by other member states.
Cooperation with the service providers will be facilitated through the establishment of points of contact to facilitate the handling of removal orders.
It will be up to member states to lay down the rules on penalties in case of non-compliance with the legislation.
Hosting service providers exposed to terrorist content will need to take specific measures to address the misuse of their services and to protect their services against the dissemination of terrorist content. The draft regulation is very clear that the decision as to the choice of measures remains with the hosting service provider.
Service providers which have taken action against the dissemination of terrorist content in a given year will have to make publicly available transparency reports on the action taken during that period.
The proposed rules also ensure that the rights of ordinary users and businesses will be respected, including freedom of expression and information and freedom to conduct a business. This includes effective remedies for both users whose content has been removed and for service providers to submit a complaint.
This proposal was submitted by the European Commission on 12 September 2018, following a call by EU leaders in June of that year.
The proposal builds on the work of the EU Internet Forum, launched in December 2015 as a framework of voluntary cooperation between member states and representatives of major internet companies to detect and address online terrorist content. Cooperation through this forum has not been sufficient to tackle the problem and on 1 March 2018, the Commission adopted a recommendation on measures to effectively tackle illegal content online.
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