In March, the European Commission — the unelected executive branch of the European Union — told social media companies to remove illegal online terrorist content within an hour — or risk facing EU-wide legislation on the topic. This ultimatum was part of a new set of recommendations that applies to all forms of supposedly “illegal content” online. This content ranges “from terrorist content, incitement to hatred and violence, child sexual abuse material, counterfeit products and copyright infringement.”
While the one-hour ultimatum was ostensibly only about terrorist content, the following is how the European Commission presented the new recommendations at the time:
“… The Commission has taken a number of actions to protect Europeans online – be it from terrorist content, illegal hate speech or fake news… we are continuously looking into ways we can improve our fight against illegal content online. Illegal content means any information which is not in compliance with Union law or the law of a Member State, such as content inciting people to terrorism, racist or xenophobic, illegal hate speech, child sexual exploitation… What is illegal offline is also illegal online”.
“Illegal hate speech”, is then broadly defined by the European Commission as “incitement to violence or hatred directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin”.
The EU has now decided that these “voluntary efforts” to remove terrorist content within an hour on the part of the social media giants are not enough: that legislation must be introduced. According to the European Commission’s recent press release: