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 at the industry to develop tools which would assist in the detection and removal of online content that incites to terrorist acts. These 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 complete 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 of 2018.
Building on those initiatives, the Commission decided to take the matter a step further and table a proposal for a Regulation on preventing the dissemination of terrorist content online. The proposed Regulation will apply to hosting 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 and it is defined as information which is used to incite and glorify the commission of terrorist offences, encouraging the contribution to and providing instructions for committing terrorist offences as well as promoting participation in terrorist groups. 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. Following such an order, the service provider will have to remove the said content within one hour. 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 also 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 may make use of channels set up by Europol to ensure co-ordination. It also imposes obligations on hosting service providers to inform law enforcement when they detect content which poses a threat to life or safety. Finally, hosting 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.
In the European Parliament, the proposal has been assigned to the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee and Daniel Dalton has been assigned as Rapporteur.
In the Council, the Terrorism Working Party assessed the proposal on 25 September, 5 and 25 October, and 6 and 15 November 2018 and the Justice and Home Affairs Counsellors discussed it on 22 November 2018. The Committee of Permanent Representatives also discussed the proposal between September and November 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. The following day, the European Data Protection Supervisor sent formal comments on the draft Regulation to the European Parliament, the Commission and the Council.
In the European Parliament the proposal has been assigned to the LIBE Committee. 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.
On 24 September 2019, the LIBE Committee adopted the decision to open inter-institutional negotiations. The first trialogue took place in October 2019 and discussions are still ongoing.
Reference number: COM(2018) 640 final
Issue date: 12-09-18
Official Journal: Not yet published in the Official Journal