The European Union has stepped up pressure on the world’s largest internet companies including Facebook, Google, and Twitter to remove illegal content such as child porn, as well as material from terrorist groups from their platforms.
Among other recommendations, the European Commission asked tech companies to remove terrorism-related content from their platform within one hour of being flagged by law enforcement agencies or Europol, the EU’s police agency, claiming that terrorist content is most harmful in the first hours of its appearance online.
Last year, the commission called upon social media companies to develop a common set of tools to detect and get rid of hate speech and terrorist propaganda from their platforms. Thursday’s recommendations warns tech companies to remove content faster or face legislation that forces them to do so.
“Online platforms are becoming people’s main gateway to information, so they have a responsibility to provide a secure environment for their users,” said Andrus Ansip, the commission’s Digital Single Market Vice-President in a statement. “What is illegal offline is also illegal online. While several platforms have been removing more illegal content than ever before – showing that self-regulation can work – we still need to react faster against terrorist propaganda and other illegal content which is a serious threat to our citizens’ security, safety and fundamental rights.”
Facebook told BuzzFeed News that it sided with the commission. “We share the goal of the European Commission to fight all forms of illegal content. There is no place for hate speech or content that promotes violence or terrorism on Facebook,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. “As the latest figures show, we have already made good progress removing various forms of illegal content. We continue to work hard to remove hate speech and terrorist content while making sure that Facebook remains a platform for all ideas.”
Twitter declined to comment.
Google did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News’ request for comment.
However, a spokesperson from EDiMA, a European trade association that represents more than a dozen of the world’s tech companies including Facebook, Google and Twitter on issues that impact their business in Europe told BuzzFeed News that the association was “dismayed” by the European Commission’s decision to not engage with the companies before issuing recommendations.
“EDiMA fails to see how the arbitrary Recommendation published by the European Commission, without due consideration of the types of content; the context and impact of the obligation on other regulatory issues; and, the feasibility of applying such broad recommendations by different kinds of service providers can be seen as a positive step forward,” said the association in a statement emailed to BuzzFeed News.