The European Commission is telling internet companies that online terrorist content needs to be deleted within one hour of it being reported.
The new “one-hour rule” is among a list of recommendations that the commission published on Thursday. The goal is to push the tech industry to not only fight illegal online content, but to do so in a timely and efficient manner.
“Considering that terrorist content is particularly harmful in the first hours of its appearance online, companies should as a general rule remove such content within one hour of its flagging by law enforcement authorities and Europol,” the commission said in its latest proposal.
Ideally, internet companies will voluntarily adopt the recommendations. But if necessary, the commission can also craft legislation to make the recommendations into law, it said.
In addition, the commission called for the automated detection of terrorist content and the streamlining of other take down procedures.
“While several platforms have been removing more illegal content than ever before —showing that self-regulation can work— we still need to react faster against terrorist propaganda,” said commission vice president Andrus Ansip in a statement.
So far, Google and Facebook are remaining publicly upbeat on the European Commission’s demands. But neither answered whether they can achieve the one-hour rule.
“We’re doing more than ever to prevent the abuse of our services, including hiring more people and investing in machine learning technology, and we’re making real progress,” Google said in an email.
“We share the goal of the European Commission to fight all forms of illegal content,” Facebook said in its own statement.
Nevertheless, a European trade association that represents several internet companies has suggested that the one-hour rule might result in accidental censorship.
“Our sector accepts the urgency but needs to balance the responsibility to protect users while upholding fundamental rights,” said the EDiMA, which counts Google, Facebook and Twitter, as among its members. “A one-hour turn-around time in such cases could harm the effectiveness of service providers’ take-down systems rather than help.”
The privacy group, European Digital Rights, also took issue with the one-hour rule. It’ll afford little time to “assess the illegality of the content” or whether deleting the data might have counter-productive effects, like interfering with criminal investigations, it said.
The recommendations from the commission also push the internet industry to implement a “voluntary” censorship of the internet, as opposed to developing an actual policy, the group claimed.
“The European Commission’s short-cut, where it puts the focus on ‘voluntary’ measures by internet companies, bypasses democratic accountability,” it added.