Early on March 1, The European Commission (EC) issued guidelines and recommendations for the rapid removal of “illegal content” from websites accessible within Europe. Even though it wasn’t the only content, targeted, the move was aimed primarily at terrorist propaganda.
For the EC, they want to see illegal content taken down, following notifications to tech companies, within an hour. According to the EC, illegal content is defined to include: “terrorist content, incitement to hatred and violence, child sexual abuse material, counterfeit products and copyright infringement.”
Although these are voluntary recommendations and don’t have to force the law, but supposedly, it can be used in judicial proceedings.
Here’s what the Wall Street Journal reported on the question of enforcement:
The new recommendation from the European Commission is a form of soft law and spells out the voluntary guidelines in greater detail. While it is nonbinding, it can be used in courts as a legal reference. The EU said it would pursue formal regulation should the guidelines prove ineffective.
It appears that the EC is inclined to pursue legislation if the rules aren’t adopted and enforced by major tech firms voluntarily:
The Commission will monitor the actions taken in response to this Recommendation and determine whether additional steps, including, if necessary legislation, are required.
Not only is there the “one hour rule,” the EC outlined a set of aspirational procedures for “more efficient removal of illegal content,” each of which are more fully discussed in its news release:
- Clearer ‘notice and action’ procedures
- More efficient tools and proactive technologies
- Stronger safeguards to ensure fundamental rights
- Special attention to small companies
- Closer cooperation with authorities
To the EC, he rules aren’t a blunt instrument or “one size fits all.” According to the EC, “these measures may differ according to the nature of the illegal content, and the Recommendation encourages companies to follow the principle of proportionality when removing illegal content.”