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The European Commission adopted on 1st March 2018 a Recommendation on measures to effectively tackle illegal content online.

The Commission announced in the Digital Single Market Strategy mid-term review that it would publish guidance on illegal content removal by end 2017.

Recommendation on measures to effectively tackle illegal content online

On 1 March 2018, the Commission issued a Recommendation on measures to effectively tackle illegal content online. This Recommendation builds on an earlier Communication on "tackling illegal content online, towards enhanced responsibility of online platforms",  adopted on 28 September 2017, and translates the political commitment of the Communication into a (non-binding) legal form.

The Commission's work is motivated by concerns that the removal of illegal content online continues to be insufficiently effective – incitement to terrorism, illegal hate speech, or child sexual abuse material, as well as infringements of Intellectual Property rights and consumer protection online need to be tackled across the EU with determination and resolve.

In setting out clear legal guidance in the form of a Recommendation, the Commission has made clear which types of processes platforms should put in place, in order to speed up the detection and removal of illegal content, and thus curb the spread of such material, while also offering a set of robust safeguards.

Online platforms need to exercise a greater responsibility in content governance. The recommendation proposes a common approach to swiftly and proactively detect, remove and prevent the reapparence of content online:

  • Clearer 'notice and action' procedures: Companies should set out easy and transparent rules for notifying illegal content, including fast-track procedures for 'trusted flaggers'. To avoid the unintended removal of content which is not illegal, content providers should be informed about such decisions and have the opportunity to contest them.
  • More efficient tools and proactive technologies: Companies should set out clear notification systems for users. They should have proactive tools to detect and remove illegal content, in particular for terrorism content and for content which does not need contextualisation to be deemed illegal, such as child sexual abuse material or counterfeited goods.
  • Stronger safeguards to ensure fundamental rights: To ensure that decisions to remove content are accurate and well-founded, especially when automated tools are used, companies should put in place effective and appropriate safeguards, including human oversight and verification, in full respect of fundamental rights, freedom of expression and data protection rules.
  • Special attention to small companies: The industry should, through voluntary arrangements, cooperate and share experiences, best practices and technological solutions, including tools allowing for automatic detection. This shared responsibility should particularly benefit smaller platforms with more limited resources and expertise. 
  • Closer cooperation with authorities: If there is evidence of a serious criminal offence or a suspicion that illegal content is posing a threat to life or safety, companies should promptly inform law enforcement authorities. Member States are encouraged to establish the appropriate legal obligations.

The Commission considers that online intermediaries can put in place proactive measures without fearing to lose the liability exemption under the e-Commerce Directive.

Background

The Commission services have conducted several workshops, dialogues with industry and launched an ongoing study on the topic which have provided input into the Recommendation.

The approach is fully aligned and consistent with the proposed Copyright Directive, including those aspects on the liability of online platforms that are currently widely debated. It is also fully consistent with the proposed revision of the Audio-visual Media Directive.

The Commission is proposing for consultation an Inception Impact Assessment for measures to further improve the effectiveness of the fight against illegal content online.

Useful links

Published: 
29 September 2016
Last update: 
6 March 2018
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