EU Urges Online Platforms To Step Up Illegal Content Removal

September 13, 2017 - Written By Alexandra Burlacu

The European Union reportedly wants stricter laws that might force companies such as Google, Twitter, Facebook, and others to act more promptly when it comes to removing illegal content. The internet is riddled with abusive and illegal content and as much as companies try to combat and remove such posts, it’s an uphill battle. If companies don’t improve their current techniques to remove illegal content, the EU could impose additional measures to force further action. The EU simply drafted some guidelines to recommend a course of action for now, but further legislation could go into effect next year if companies don’t do more to combat illegal content found online.

Handling abusive and illegal content has been a priority in Europe and companies have already agreed to various measures to better address the issue, such as removing hateful content within 24 hours. Despite such measures, however, the EU still thinks that companies such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter are not doing enough to wipe illegal content off their platforms. EU legislation currently doesn’t hold platforms liable for the content they host, but companies could nonetheless do more to clean up their platforms, according to the draft EU guidelines. One proposed measure involves so-called “trusted flaggers,” meaning trusted parties that are proficient in identifying illegal content. Reports from such trusted flaggers would get priority and companies could automatically remove the illegal content in question. If national law enforcement authorities report illegal content, their notifications should get special priority.

The EU is expected to publish these guidelines by the end of the month, aiming to get online platforms to “significantly step up their actions to address this problem.” At the same time, since the whole debacle regarding the removal of illegal content has sparked fears that it could harm free speech, the EU guidelines also include measures to counter abusive content removal. Based on how companies manage to handle the situation, the EU will decide on a course of action going forward. Additional legislation could surface in Spring 2018. Regardless of any potential legislation that might be enforced, online platforms would still not be liable for content that users post on their websites. Lastly, the Commission also indicates that companies should rely more on technology to automatically identify illegal content rather than having humans review content.