New EU Proposal on the Prevention of Terrorist Content Online

In the course of the last years, the European Union (EU) institutions, and the Commission (EC) in particular, have shown a growing concern regarding the use of online intermediary platforms for the dissemination of illegal content, particularly content of terrorist nature. Despite lack of complete certainty and differences between member States about what terrorist content the law prohibits, or even can prohibit consistent with fundamental rights to free expression, the truth is that there is a broad consensus among the national authorities that legislative and regulatory measures should be enacted both at the European and national levels in order to guarantee the swift and almost automatic detection and removal of content related to the commission of acts of terrorism. The political positions and non-binding documents produced so far have progressively incorporated the notion of “responsibility” for intermediaries, although this could not necessarily be equated to a straightforward intention to impose conventional legal liability obligations on such actors. In particular, the initiatives undertaken so far by the EU institutions basically aimed at promoting platforms’ voluntary cooperation with public authorities to detect and remove online illegal content (including terrorist content). Such initiatives include the Code of Conduct on Countering Illegal Hate Speech Online, the Recommendation on measures to effectively tackle illegal speech online, the Guidelines on Freedom of Expression Online and Offline, and the EU Internet Forum. Above all these recommendations, agreements and soft-law standards, the general legally applicable regime has remained so far intact since its approval in 2000:Directive 2000/31/EC, known as the e-commerce Directive, establishes liability exemptions for intermediaries under certain conditions of lack of knowledge of illegal activity or information and expeditious removal and disabling upon knowledge (article 14). The Directive also includes an important provision regarding the absence of any legal obligation for providers to monitor content (article 15).The new proposed Regulation on preventing the dissemination of terrorist content online, which was the object of a first discussion on September 19-20 during the meeting of EU leaders in Salzburg under the Austrian Presidency, may represent a change in the above mentioned approach.

Tags: EU, Internet, prevention