THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION (EC) has announced new measures to curb illegal and terrorist content online, telling tech companies worldwide they will have just one hour to take it down or face the consequences of new EU legislation.
In a bid to "monitor progress in tackling illegal content online", the EC recommended the new set of operational measures on Thursday, accompanied by necessary safeguards, to be taken by companies and Member State.
Any tech company that is responsible for people posting content online will have three months from now to report back to the EU on what they were doing to meet the new targets it has set.
The EC also recommended that in order to achieve this, tech companies should employ people to oversee the process of reviewing and removing terrorist content. It also advised that if there is evidence that a serious criminal offence has been committed, the companies should promptly inform law enforcement.
"These recommendations apply to all forms of illegal content ranging from terrorist content, incitement to hatred and violence, child sexual abuse material, counterfeit products and copyright infringement," the EC said.
"The Recommendation builds on the on-going work with the industry through various voluntary initiatives to ensure that the internet is free of illegal content and reinforces actions taken under different initiatives."
While the announcement is geared towards the goal of better operational measures to "ensure faster detection and removal of illegal content online" and to increase transparency and safeguards for citizens; the "one-hour rule" is perhaps a little too optimistic for some organisations.
In its announcement, the EC said: "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."
In response, the industry association EDiMA, which includes Facebook, Google, and Twitter, said it was "dismayed" by the announcement.
"Our sector accepts the urgency but needs to balance the responsibility to protect users while upholding fundamental rights - a one-hour turn-around time in such cases could harm the effectiveness of service providers' take-down systems rather than help," it said in a statement.
Nevertheless, Facebook said that it shares the European Commission's goal.
"We have already made good progress removing various forms of illegal content," the company said in a statement. "We continue to work hard to remove hate speech and terrorist content while making sure that Facebook remains a platform for all ideas."
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