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EU passes law to remove 'terrorist content' quickly

April 29, 2021

Once "terrorist content" is identified, internet platforms will have one hour to remove it, according to the new law. The measure has sparked unease among some rights groups.

Logos of Facebook, Twitter and Google
Companies like Facebook and Google say they already remove objectionable content within minutes of it being postedImage: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto/picture alliance

The European Parliament on Wednesday approved a measure that will compel online platforms to swiftly remove or block access to online content deemed "terrorist" in nature. If the company fails to do so, it would risk a fine that could go up to 4% of its global turnover.

That applies even if the order comes from a different EU state. However, the host country would have 72 hours to assess if the request was justified and whether or not it breached fundamental rights.

Exceptions can be made for content posted for educational, journalistic, artistic or research purposes. The law also provides exceptions for smaller or non-commercial operators.

More obstacles for 'terrorists' 

MEPs backed the legislation without a vote, having offered no amendments to an agreement struck between EU member countries in December.

"This regulation will make it more difficult for terrorists to abuse the internet to recruit online, to incite attacks online, to glorify their atrocities online," EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said as the legislation was presented.

Why Big Tech is under fire around the world

Patryk Jaki, an EU legislator from Poland who served as rapporteur on the legislation, said the law would prove to be a great tool and noted how the internet is often employed by terrorists trying to spread their messages.

Jaki called the legislation a "good and balanced text" that upheld freedom of speech on the internet while improving online security.

Activists fear limits on free speech

Companies like Facebook and Google say they already remove objectionable content within minutes of it being posted, before anyone has a chance to see it or complain about it. The new law would not require platform operators to monitor all contents or install filters, but they will be required to remove or block items when they are pointed out.

The EU regulation, however, has sparked unease among NGOs and rights groups, including Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders, which fear the new rules could be used to curb free speech.

The law is now set to be published in the EU's official gazette. with EU states to start putting the regulation into their national laws from late next month. It is set to fully go into force a year later.

sri/dj (AFP, dpa)