The European Commission urges social media channels to remove flagged content within one hour of report

The European Commission has previously issued a press release explaining how Facebook and Google should react when content on their websites is flagged. They have addressed online terrorist content, child and sexual abuse, counterfeit products, copyright infringement and many more. These recommendations mention procedures that should be taken and more efficient tools to make the internet a safer place for everyone.

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Vice-President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip said: “Online platforms are becoming people’s main gateway to information, so they have a responsibility to provide a secure environment for their users. What is illegal offline is also illegal online.

While several platforms have been removing more illegal terrorist 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.” Some of the points that are highlighted are automated detection, prevention of content re-upload and an improved referral system between EU member states are some other edicts the commission is recommending.These measures are still optional and should be taken as a recommendation from the European Commission. They should be used as a soft law before it is decided if they should be proposed as legislation. The recommendations are non-binding, but they can still be used as legal references in court as Wall Street Journal has reported. The Commission stated that these guidelines should help improve flagging on social media and create a stronger bond in cooperation between different platforms, create trusted flaggers and include law enforcement authorities.

Some tech companies are seeing a possibility that these recommendations may infringe on freedom of expression but they are still willing to work with the European Commission to help as much as they can. Facebook has already pointed out that they want to be a hostile place for terrorist content and are using the help of Artificial Intelligence to clear the platform from harmful content. YouTube is doing the same thing but without users flagging the content we would probably have a flood of it on the internet.

The recommendations for terrorist content, in general, are as follows:

● One-hour rule: Considering that terrorist content is most harmful in the first hours of its appearance online, all companies should remove such content within one hour from its referral as a general rule.

● Faster detection and effective removal: In addition to referrals, internet companies should implement proactive measures, including automated detection, to effectively and swiftly remove or disable terrorist content and stop it from reappearing once it has been removed. To assist smaller platforms, companies should share and optimise appropriate technological tools and put in place working arrangements for better cooperation with the relevant authorities, including Europol.

● Improved referral system: Fast-track procedures should be put in place to process referrals as quickly as possible, while Member States need to ensure they have the necessary capabilities and resources to detect, identify and refer terrorist content.

● Regular reporting: Member States should on a regular basis, preferably every three months, report to the Commission on referrals and their follow-up as well as on overall cooperation with companies to curb terrorist online content.

This looks like a big step forward and let’s hope tech companies like Facebook and Google can adjust to these “rules”. The new recommendations require EU states to file a report within three months regarding how terrorist content is dealt with and within six months for all other illegal content. This should give a clear picture of any possible advance in content removal.


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