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EU votes to levy mega-fines on web firms that fail to remove extremist content

EU votes to levy mega-fines on web firms that fail to remove extremist content

European Parliament on Wednesday voted in favour of the new regulation

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT will fine internet firms four per cent of their turnover if they fail to yank extremist content within an hour of being asked 

Parliament voted by 308 to 207 to implement the tough new rules in a bid to crackdown on online platforms used for “terrorist purposes”. 

The laws will target technology giants such as Facebook, Google and Twitter, which have come under increasing pressure by governments around the world to help remove extremist content published via their platforms. 

They come after the terrorist attacks at two mosques in New Zealand in March, which was live streamed on Facebook by a lone gunman. Facebook claimed that it did not receive any complaints from users for around half-an-hour, and took the stream offline rapidly after it was notified. 

In a statement, the European Parliament said that “internet companies should remove terrorist content within one hour after receiving an order from the authorities to combat radicalisation and contribute to public security”.

“With 308 votes in favour to 204 against and 70 abstentions, Parliament backed on Wednesday a proposal to tackle the misuse of internet hosting services for terrorist purposes.

“Companies that systematically and persistently fail to abide by the law may be sanctioned with up to four per cent of their global turnover.”

According to EU lawmakers, the legislation will target any material (text, images, sound, recordings and videos) that  “incites or solicits the commission or contributes to the commission of terrorist offences, provides instructions for the commission of such offences or solicits the participation in activities of a terrorist group”.

The rules extend to content that provides guidance on “how to make and use explosives, firearms and other weapons for terrorist purposes”.

The proposed laws have been criticised for their breadth and potential to provide authorities with wide-ranging powers of censorship. But MEPs added that “content disseminated for educational, journalistic or research purposes should be protected, and that “the expression of polemic or controversial views on sensitive political questions should not be considered terrorist content”.

Conservative MEP Daniel Dalton, European Parliament rapporteur for the proposal, said: “There is clearly a problem with terrorist material circulating unchecked on the internet for too long. This propaganda can be linked to actual terrorist incidents and national authorities must be able to act decisively.

“Any new legislation must be practical and proportionate if we are to safeguard free speech. Without a fair process, there is a risk that too much content would be removed, as businesses would understandably take a ‘safety first’ approach to defend themselves. It also absolutely cannot lead to general monitoring of content by the back door.”

However, Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda, who has campaigned against this and the EU’s recently approved Copyright Directive, was less supportive. 

She claimed that a proposal to mandate content upload filters had been rejected by MEPs, but added that the one-hour content takedown deadline was passed by just three votes. 

“Unfortunately, the unreasonable Commission proposal that illegal terrorist content must be taken down within one hour remains the default,” wrote Reda in a blog post after the vote

She continued: “The only exception to this rule is for the very first time a website owner receives a removal order from an authority, in which case they get 12 hours to familiarise themselves with the procedure and applicable deadlines.

“Afterward, regardless of platform size or resources, they must react within one hour in order to avoid harsh penalties.” 

The law has been put forward in the form of an EU regulation, rather than a directive. Regulation is defined as “a binding legislative act”, which means that it will need to be implemented directly as worded in EU member states’ legal systems. 

A directive, in contrast, is “a legislative act that sets out a goal that all EU countries must achieve”.  µ

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Source : Inquirer

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