Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on preventing the dissemination of terrorist content online
In June 2017, the European Council called upon online service providers for developing tools which would assist in the detection and removal of online content that incites to terrorist acts. These tools would, if needed, be supplemented by relevant legislative measures at the EU level. In September 2017, the Commission published a Communication on ‘Tackling Illegal Content Online’, addressed to online service providers. As a follow-up to this Communication, the Commission published, in March 2018, a Recommendation ‘on measures to effectively tackle illegal content online’, including online terrorist propaganda. In order to gain a more comprehensive picture of the impact of the problem and the responses to it, and also to examine whether the guidelines proposed in this Recommendation had been adopted, the Commission held a public consultation ‘on measures to further improve the effectiveness of the fight against illegal content online’ between April and June 2018.
Building on those initiatives, the Commission decided to take the matter a step further and tabled
on 12 September 2018 a proposal for a Regulation on preventing the dissemination of terrorist content online. The proposed Regulation will apply to online service providers who offer their services within the Union, regardless of their place of establishment or their size. The definition of illegal terrorist content is based on the definition of terrorist offences, as set out in Directive 2017/541. The proposal aims to ensure the removal of terrorist content via the introduction of a “removal order”, which can be issued as an administrative or judicial decision by a competent authority in a Member State. The proposal also includes a series of safeguards which aim to guarantee the respect of fundamental rights and protect non-terrorist content from erroneous removal.
The proposed Regulation further obliges Member States to ensure that their competent authorities have the capacity to intervene against terrorist content online. In addition, Member States are placed under a duty to inform and cooperate with each other and they are invited to make use of channels set up by Europol to ensure their co- ordination. It also imposes obligations on online service providers to report to law enforcement authorities when they detect content which poses a threat to life or safety. Finally, online service providers are placed under a duty to preserve the
content they remove - which functions as a safeguard against erroneous removal and ensures potential evidence is not lost for the purpose of the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of terrorist offences.
The European Economic and Social Committee adopted its opinion on 18 September 2018.
On 6 December 2018, the Council agreed on a general approach.
On 7 December 2018, three Special Rapporteurs of the United Nations Human Rights Council expressed concerns about the proposal. As a result, the Parliament requested an opinion from the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) on the key fundamental rights implications of the proposal. The FRA published its opinion on 12 February 2019 and made several recommendations. The following day, the European Data Protection Supervisor sent formal comments on the draft Regulation to the European Parliament, the Commission and the Council.
Among other things, the Agency suggested the modification of the definition of illegal terrorist content considering it too broad. The Agency also suggested that the proposal should protect better journalistic, academic and artistic expression and that, with respect to removal orders, fundamental rights guarantees should be strengthened by increasing the involvement of the judiciary in the process.
In the European Parliament, the proposal has been assigned to the LIBE Committee with CULT (Committee on Culture and Education) as associated. The Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection also gave an opinion. The LIBE Committee tabled its report for plenary on 9 April 2019 and the European Parliament adopted its position at first reading on 17 April, just before the end of its legislature.
On 24 September 2019, the LIBE Committee adopted the decision to open inter-institutional negotiations. The first trilogue took place in October 2019. Under the Croatian presidency of the Council, in office between January and June 2020, trilogues came to a standstill, partly due to COVID-19, partly due to EP reluctance to engage. Four technical meetings, on 23 January, on 3 and 18 February and 3 March, and five JHA Counsellors' meetings, on 17 and 31 January, 13 and 27 February and 5 March, took place. A number of articles have been provisionally agreed. However, due to COVID-19, as for most legislative files, negotiations were suspended. The fourth political trilogue on the proposal, which had been planned for 18 March 2020, had to be postponed and finally took place on 24 September 2020 under the German presidency.
Since the beginning of the German Presidency (1st July 2020), three technical trilogues/meetings on 1 and 13 October and 9 December, and eight JHA Counsellors' meetings on 6 July, 22 and 29 September, 7 and 27 October, 5-6 November and 1 December 2020 have been held. The fifth political trilogue was completed on 29 October 2020, and a sixth and final trilogue took place on 10 December 2020.
After the recent terrorist attacks in Europe, on 13 November 2020, the EU Home Affairs Ministers published a joint statement reiterating their commitment to complete the negotiations on the proposal by the end of the year. On 10th December 2020, the Council presidency and the European Parliament reached a provisional agreement on the draft regulation. Both the Council and the Parliament still have to complete the formal legislative procedure for adoption at early second reading before the Regulation can enter into force. This will happen in spring 2021. The Regulation will apply from 12 months after its entry into force.
Reference number: COM(2018) 640 final
Issue date: 12-09-18
Official Journal: Not yet published in the Official Journal