The crackdown on terrorism continues, with the European Commission turning its focus firmly on internet service providers (ISPs). The EC has announced proposed new legislation to ensure terrorist content online is removed within an hour of it being flagged up.

The EC says that in January 2018 alone, almost 700 new pieces of official Da’esh propaganda were disseminated online, demonstrating just how serious the continued terrorist threat to Europe remains. Unfortunately, a voluntary system through which the likes of Facebook and Twitter agreed to remove such content within an hour, has not proved effective. The EC says internet platforms were not sufficiently engaged, and did not take sufficiently robust action to reduce access to terrorist content online.

In addition, the EC has highlighted that the different procedures and regulatory actions across Member States limit the effectiveness and efficiency of cooperation between authorities and hosting service providers. Under the new rules, obligations will be imposed uniformly across the whole EU, and will specify the obligations and responsibilities of hosting service providers and Member States. The result will be increasing legal certainty.

So what’s proposed?

The proposed rules will provide for greater accountability and transparency, and will introduce:

  • Binding removal orders – to be issued by national authorities and requesting hosting service providers to remove terrorist content online or disable access to it, within 1 hour when it is at its most harmful
  • Impose strong financial penalties of up to 4% of its global turnover for the last business year in the event of non-compliance
  • A duty of care obligation, requiring hosting service providers to take proactive measures,including the deployment of automated detection tools where appropriate and when they are exposed to the risk of hosting terrorist content
  • Strong safeguards – hosting service providers must have effective safeguardsto ensure full respect of fundamental rights, such as freedom of expression and information
  • Increased cooperation – hosting service providers and Member States will be obliged to nominate points of contactto ensure the swift handling of removal orders and referrals

Who will be affected by the new rules?

The new rules will apply to all hosting service providers offering services in the EU, irrespective of their size or where they are based. They will also apply to hosting service providers providing information services (including storing of information shared by users and making information available to third parties).