European Parliament and the European Council have reached a provisional agreement on rules designed to prevent the dissemination of terrorist content online, pushing companies to remove or disable access to such material within one hour.
Under the new rules, it will be up to member states to introduce penalties in case of non-compliance.
“The EU is working to stop terrorists from using the internet to radicalize, recruit and incite to violence,” the council said in a statement on Thursday (10 December).
Rules will apply to all online providers offering services in the EU – irrespective of the location of their headquarters.
Authorities from any member state will be able to send removal orders to online platforms.
However, the text fails to ensure that the “competent authorities” in charge of issuing removal orders are an independent judicial or administrative authority, the NGO Statewatch warned.
But providers can appeal to “competent authorities” to revise the removal order – or suspend it, if they consider it violates fundamental rights.
Platforms like Facebook, YouTube or Twitter will themselves decide how to take down such content.
However, these providers are expected to prepare publicly-available transparency reports on action taken against the dissemination of terrorist content in a given year.
However, civil society groups warned earlier this year that the use of automated filtering tools (without human intervention) would violate freedom of expression, and the right not to be subjected to automated decision-making processes.
EU legislators said that the proposed rules ensure that “the rights of ordinary users and businesses will be respected, including freedom of expression and information and freedom to conduct a business,” with “effective remedies” for both users and providers.
“Automated content-removal potentially endangers the free flow of lawful information and the freedom to access information. Upload filters lack the understanding of linguistic or cultural differences and are unable to assess the context of expressions accurately,” a group of NGOs said in an open letter.
The partial compromise was reached on the eve of EU leaders discussing security issues and the recent terrorist attacks that have taken place in Austria, Germany and France.
EU leaders called on Friday (11 December) for “swiftly adopting the proposal on addressing the dissemination of terrorist content online,” stressing the need to improve data cooperation to combat crimes.
The deal needs to be finalised at a technical level and be formally approved by MEPs and EU ministers.
The proposal was tabled by the European Commission in 2018.