Faster progress in removing illegal content online eyed
Five commissioners and CEOs of internet platforms discussed how to do more collectively
Maria Koleva, Brussels
12 January, 2018
Online platforms have the responsibility to provide a secure environment for their users, and they have been removing more illegal content than ever before showing that self-regulation can work, but regulation remains an option, said EC Vice-President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip. He, together with commissioners Dimitris Avramopoulos, Vera Jourova, Julian King and Mariya Gabriel held at the Commission headquarters in Brussels on 9 January an open exchange with CEOs and high level representatives of online platforms about progress made and lessons learned in removing illegal content online, including online terrorist propaganda and xenophobic, racist or hate speech and also breaches of intellectual property rights. This meeting follows the Commission guidelines for online platforms tabled last September, which aimed at increasing the prevention, detection and removal of illegal content online.
At the meeting, Vice-President Ansip also stressed that fragmentation is an issue and will increasingly be so. I strongly encourage your proactivity to detect, remove or disable access to illegal content on a voluntary basis, he told the representatives of online platforms.
Dimitris Avramopoulos, commissioner for migration, home affairs and citizenship, pointed out that online platforms shouldn't be misused by terrorists. “We can collectively do more, and we expect to see action urgently.” Content should be removed within one to two hours, companies should invest more in automated detection, present their progress regularly and transparently and share information with law enforcement authorities, he warned.
We want to create a hate free Europe, summarised on her part Commissioner Jourova, in charge of justice, consumers and gender equality. Urging that the Code of Conduct on countering illegal online hate speech, introduced a year and a half ago, has shown good improvement and a successful collaboration between companies, regulators, NGOs and users, she invited more platforms to join.
We want voluntary measures to work, but the progress has to be faster, it's currently not going fast enough and we need to do something about it, Commissioner on the Security Union Julian King underlined. He noted as well that the Internet Forum should be extended to small and medium-sized platforms that can also be used by terrorists.
Commissioner Gabriel, responsible for digital economy and society, underscored that fighting online illegal content requires collective efforts of companies, authorities and other stakeholders. Explaining that this approach is more effective then isolated individual efforts, she added that “we want illegal online content to be removed but this removal should respect fundamental rights.” In her words, active commitment from platforms is crucial in the way forward. She made clear that the Commission is still analysing whether legislation is necessary.
In a joint statement made a day before the discussion, the commissioners announced that the progress made is not sufficient to protect the citizens from harmful content spreading on the web and preventing criminals and terrorists from exploiting the platforms. We encourage the platforms to step up and speed up their efforts to tackle these threats. The commissioners brought to the fore their plans to follow the progress made through voluntary measures in the coming weeks and assured that they are prepared to come forward quickly with specific steps to tighten up the response before deciding whether legislative initiatives are needed.