The European Union and Illegal Online Content
In a communication released on September 28, 2017, the EU released a communication on their desire to step up efforts made against illegal content posted online. Spanning twenty pages, this communication begins by explaining the EU’s context for which they are approaching this issue. The document continues by explaining how illegal content will be identified, removed, preventing access from the content, and preventing the content from returning.
The EU is basing their definition of illegal online content off the principle that “what is illegal offline is illegal online.” Online violations include the following:
- Incitement to terrorism including terrorist propaganda
- Illegal hate speech including racism, xenophobia, and homophobia
- Child sexual abuse material like child pornography
- Sale of counterfeit goods
- Violation of copyright
- Wildlife Trafficking
- Unfair Commercial Practices
Prior to this communication, the EU reports that there have already been some improvements on this front. When it comes to illegal hate speech, “reports from June 2017 indicated an increase of removals from 28 percent to 59 percent.” The directive laid out in this communication will continue to increase removals.
An outlet will be established within the EU will be the central hub for the reporting and removing of illegal content. The communication promises to use three different methods to identify and notify the EU outlet of illegal content:
- Courts and competent authorities
- Notices from a variety of outlets ranging from average, everyday people all the way to “competent authorities”
- Investigation of the outlet itself
The EU is committed to the online safety of the general public. This directive ensures that appropriate action will be taken against illegal online content at the proper time. This directive lays out methods for the following:
- Ensuring illegal online content is removed and reported to right authorities
- Ensuring transparency of both website policies and action taken on illegal content
- Ensuring that this system will not be abused or overused by those responsible for reporting illegal content
Lastly, this directive lays out guidelines to prevent the reoccurrence of illegal online content. Special actions will be taken to both punish and prevent repeat offenders. These measures include the following:
- Suspending or terminating the offending accounts.
- Filtering websites against automatic re-uploads
Developing new content to prevent illegal online content is continually encouraged and websites should make efforts toward that end. The safety of the public is the EU’s utmost priority. Preventing repeat offenders will help the EU take steps toward eliminating illegal online content altogether.
When illegal content is created and posted to the internet, it poses a danger to the general public. This measure is being implemented for the safety of the public. It has begun to go into effect and should be fully effective by no later than May 2018.