EU ratchets up pressure on tech companies to curb ‘illegal content’

“The European Commission on Thursday published new guidelines for online platforms to step up the prevention, detection, and removal of objectionable content such as hate speech and terrorist-related content,” Stephanie Condon reports for ZDNet. “‘The Commission expects online platforms to take swift action over the coming months,’ it said in a release, noting that terrorism and illegal hate speech are ‘already illegal under EU law, both online and offline.’ If tech companies don’t implement the guidelines, the release said, the Commission will ‘assess whether additional measures are needed… including possible legislative measures to complement the existing regulatory framework.'”

“‘The rule of law applies online just as much as offline,’ Commissioner Vera Jourová said in a statement. ‘We cannot accept a digital Wild West, and we must act. The code of conduct I agreed with Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft shows that a self-regulatory approach can serve as a good example and can lead to results. However, if the tech companies don’t deliver, we will do it,'” Condon reports. “In a press conference Thursday, the AFP reports, Jourová said she deleted her own Facebook account ‘because it was the highway for hatred, and I am not willing to support it.'”

“Tech firms have also become more aggressive at shutting down what they deem to be objectionable content. In the wake of the violent protests this year in Charlottesville, Virginia, Google pulled domain registration support for the neo-Nazi site The Daily Stormer. Facebook, meanwhile, hired a fleet of contractors to look for potential terrorist activity — before giving a clear definition of what it considers terrorism,” Condon reports. “Along with curbing hate speech and terrorism, online platforms are now coming under scrutiny for enabling bad actors to interfere in democratic elections. Executives from Facebook, Google, and Twitter have been asked to testify next month to the US Congress regarding Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 US presidential election.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: We prefer to err on the side of free speech.

This is a very slippery slope.

We understand the concerns and apparent motivations, but there’s a stench of Newspeak wafting through much of this.

The EC’s press release, verbatim:

European Commission – Press release

Security Union: Commission steps up efforts to tackle illegal content online

Brussels, 28 September 2017

The Commission is presenting today guidelines and principles for online platforms to increase the proactive prevention, detection and removal of illegal content inciting hatred, violence and terrorism online.

As announced by President Juncker in his Letter of Intent accompanying his State of the Union speech of 13 September, the European Commission is presenting today guidelines and principles for online platforms. The aim is to increase the proactive prevention, detection and removal of illegal content inciting hatred, violence and terrorism online. The increasing availability and spreading of terrorist material and content that incites violence and hatred online is a serious threat to the security and safety of EU citizens. It also undermines citizens’ trust and confidence in the digital environment – a key engine of innovation, growth and jobs.

Following up on the European Council conclusions of June 2017, echoed by G7 and G20 leaders, the proposed measures constitute a first element of the Anti-Terrorism package announced by President Juncker. They will contribute to making the fight against illegal content more effective and will advance the ongoing work to build an effective and genuine EU Security Union and a stronger Digital Single Market.

Vice-President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip said: “We are providing a sound EU answer to the challenge of illegal content online. We make it easier for platforms to fulfil their duty, in close cooperation with law enforcement and civil society. Our guidance includes safeguards to avoid over-removal and ensure transparency and the protection of fundamental rights such as freedom of speech.”

Vera Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, said: “The rule of law applies online just as much as offline. We cannot accept a digital Wild West, and we must act. The code of conduct I agreed with Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft shows that a self-regulatory approach can serve as a good example and can lead to results. However, if the tech companies don’t deliver, we will do it.”

Julian King, Commissioner for the Security Union, said: “The digital world offers unprecedented opportunities but, in the wrong hands, poses a serious threat to our security. Internet companies have a central role in eliminating online terrorist material by stepping up their efforts and showing corporate social responsibility for the digital age.”
Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society, said: “The Commission has decided to thoroughly tackle the problem of illegal content online. The situation is not sustainable: in more than 28% of cases, it takes more than one week for online platforms to take down illegal content. Today we provide a clear signal to platforms to act more responsibly. This is key for citizens and the development of platforms.”

With the surge of illegal content online, including online terrorist propaganda and xenophobic and racist speech inciting violence and hatred, online platforms have an increasingly important role to play and need to step up their social responsibility. The new guidance issued today calls on online platforms to further boost their efforts to prevent the spread of illegal content. Given their increasingly important role in providing access to information, the Commission expects online platforms to take swift action over the coming months, in particular in the area of terrorism and illegal hate speech – which is already illegal under EU law, both online and offline.

Proactive and effective weeding out of illegal content

As a first step to effectively fight illegal content online, the Commission is proposing common tools to swiftly and proactively detect, remove and prevent the reappearance of such content:

• Detection and notification: Online platforms should cooperate more closely with competent national authorities, by appointing points of contact to ensure they can be contacted rapidly to remove illegal content. To speed up detection, online platforms are encouraged to work closely with trusted flaggers, i.e. specialised entities with expert knowledge on what constitutes illegal content. Additionally, they should establish easily accessible mechanisms to allow users to flag illegal content and to invest in automatic detection technologies.

• Effective removal: Illegal content should be removed as fast as possible, and can be subject to specific timeframes, where serious harm is at stake, for instance in cases of incitement to terrorist acts. The issue of fixed timeframes will be further analysed by the Commission. Platforms should clearly explain to their users their content policy and issue transparency reports detailing the number and types of notices received. Internet companies should also introduce safeguards to prevent the risk of over-removal.

• Prevention of re-appearance: Platforms should take measures to dissuade users from repeatedly uploading illegal content. The Commission strongly encourages the further use and development of automatic tools to prevent the re-appearance of previously removed content.

Next steps

Today’s communication is a first step and follow-up initiatives will depend on the online platforms’ actions to proactively implement the guidelines. The Commission will carefully monitor progress made by the online platforms over the next months and assess whether additional measures are needed in order to ensure the swift and proactive detection and removal of illegal content online, including possible legislative measures to complement the existing regulatory framework. This work will be completed by May 2018.

Background

The European Union has already responded to the challenge of illegal content online, through both binding and non-binding measures. Policy responses include the Directive to combat the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography, the Terrorism Directive, the proposed reforms of the EU copyrightrules and the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, also part of the Digital Single Market strategy.

These legislative measures have been complemented by a range of non-legislative tools that will be supported by the actions outlined in today’s Communication such as the Code of Conduct on Countering Illegal Hate Speech Online,the work of the EU Internet Forum on combatting terrorist propaganda and theMemorandum of Understanding on the sale of Counterfeit Goods. The European Strategy for a Better Internet for Children is a self-regulatory initiative aiming to improve the online environment for children and young people.

45 Comments

    1. It isn’t just the EU. From today’s news:

      “The Justice Department has obtained three warrants to search the Facebook accounts of people associated with protests of Donald Trump’s inauguration and an anti-Trump Facebook page they used to organize the demonstrations. In addition to private lists of people who planned to attend Facebook events created by the page, the searches would include the names of an estimated 6,000 people who simply ‘liked’ it during a three-month period covered by the warrant.”

      1. “Fake news is a big problem in a lot of the world and necessitates a crackdown by the authorities and technology firms. It has to be ingrained in the schools, it has to be ingrained in the public.”

        Tim Cook

        1. Actually, I posted a rather long list of sources, but WordPress seems to have dispatched it to Never-Never Land. Here is just one:

          http://fortune.com/2017/09/29/facebook-department-justice-aclu-donald-trump/

          Note that the Inauguration occurred on January 20. The warrants had been served on Facebook by February 8. We are only reading about it now because Facebook has spent the last 7 months trying to get permission to notify all the people who are affected.

    2. Still far and above the ethics of your fifth rate terrorist nation.

      Oh and you forgot to cite your source of the “fourth reich”, was it something from of of your chumps twats?

    1. a recent example:
      “The [rise of fake news] is a short-term thing – I don’t believe that people want that at the end of the day.’ A new approach was required in schools. It’s almost as if a new course is required for the modern kid, for the digital kid. In some ways kids will be the easiest to educate. At least before a certain age, they are very much in listen and understand [mode], and they then push their parents to act.’

      Tim “The Bookburner” Cook

  1. Democrats (liberals) believe a scientist who publishes an article that does not support man made global warming should be put in jail. They believe individuals who do not do as they command should be subject to having their homes taken by the state. See the Christian bakers and wedding planners. “Hate speech” defined by “the state” will imprison all those who don’t agree with the State.

    1. The first part of your paragraph, I hope you’re being satirical: It’s the stuff of loonies, entirely lame propaganda bullshit. Maybe you’re thinking of communists, like China: Criminal Nation or North Korea: Starved Criminal Nation.

      The last sentence of your paragraph: I’m in total agreement! Thank you.

  2. I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. — S.G. Tallentyre

    Criminalizing offensive speech is a far greater and essential danger to freedom than terrorism is. Anybody who wants to criminalize speech that they find offensive differs from the terrorists only in degree, not in kind. ― Andy Levy

    Those who make conversations impossible, make escalation inevitable. ― Stefan Molyneux

    1. Great quotes. What is the difference between terrorists using violence to stop opposing views and the government using laws to stop opposing views? The means are different, but the ends are always the same.

    2. One of my favorite Supreme Court justices once observed, “When the Constitution says that Congress shall pass no law abridging freedom of speech, I believe they meant NO law.” However, he often voted for particular decisions that did, in fact, validate restrictions on absolutely free expression.

      The classic example is falsely crying “Fire!” in a crowded theatre and, by extension, intentionally provoking a riot. Another is being the party to a criminal conspiracy in which all you do is communicate plans to the other conspirators. Still another is soliciting a sexual act by a minor. Sharing government secrets with a hostile foreign power in war time may involve no more than speech. All of those are illegal, and most people think they should be.

      The difficulty, then, is where to draw the line between free speech and impermissible conduct. Given Europe’s unfortunate experience from about 1933 to 1945 (continuing in Eastern Europe until 1991), most countries over there are more sensitive than the US to threats from completely unrestricted free expression.

      We can have a debate on this, but not if the parties take absolutist positions like “The Government always gets to decide what speech is permissible,” or “The Government can never limit free expression under any circumstances.”

      1. You can claim free speech to make a Druid deal, or to recklessly endanger. Those aren’t speech issues, they involve other crimes.

        While I respect the EU’s sensitivity on the issue, it sets them as a moral arbiter. And such state impositions should be viewed with the highest of suspicion if not contempt. You post above on today’s US news is even scarier.

      2. For me the line is drawn between expressed opinion vs call to action. Some one stating their point of view how they see things should be in no way abridged. The person calling inciting a group to riot or cause violence in person acting as a fulcrum point for physical damage should be disallowed. The wording of it is difficult and I’ll leave it to a better writer than I, but there is a definite difference between stating opinion and inciting dangerous conditions.

  3. So…the usual suspects ^^ post from their idealistic reality-free bunkers and by extension approve the unfettered promulgation of racism, hate speech, neo-nazi fascist rhetoric, uncontrolled child pornography, bomb making ‘how to’s’, terrorist recruitment sites, sick beheading videos – to name a few stupidities…all in the name of freedom?

    Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites, — in proportion as their love to justice is above their rapacity, — in proportion as their soundness and sobriety of understanding is above their vanity and presumption, — in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves.
    Edmund Burke 1791

    1. Nobody here is likely for any of the stupidities you’ve listed, but the problem is in drawing the lines, who gets to draw the lines, and what happens if you cross the lines.

      Excluding certain ideas and thoughts, calling them hate speech, is an important piece in the progressive movement’s puzzle. If you can’t win an argument logically, demonize your opponent, make him out to be a bad person and all of a sudden the ideas he stands for become bad as well. ― Chris Sardegna

      1. “Nobody here is likely for any of the stupidities you’ve listed” Say what?
        I guess you don’t understand the meaning of ‘by extension’? Simplistically yelling “No censorship, not ever, in any form!!!’ is delusional reactionary failure to address the dangers of a totally hands off policy.

        “but the problem is in drawing the lines, who gets to draw the lines, and what happens if you cross the lines.”
        That I can agree with.
        So let’s have a reasoned discussion devoid of grandstanding and “The EU is the Fourth Reich” crassness.

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