EU continues to kill the open web

... massive fines for sites that don't censor within an hour

from the what-the-hell-is-going-on-in-brussels? dept

The EU really seems quite hellbent on absolutely destroying the open internet. Just as the EU Parliament was voting to approve the EU Copyright Directive, requiring that much of the internet be licensed and curated, rather than open for anyone, the EU Commission decided to move forward with an awful idea that it had first proposed earlier this year: that social media companies must disappear "terrorist content' within one hour.

Back when this was proposed, we pointed out how this was holding companies to an absolutely impossible standard... and it appears that the EU really just doesn't give a fuck, because they're super excited about putting this into practice:

The European Commission proposed new rules on Wednesday that would require internet platforms to remove illegal terror content within an hour of it being flagged by national authorities. Firms could be fined up to 4% of global annual revenue if they repeatedly fail to comply.

Got that? 4% of global revenue. As the article notes, that means if Google fucks up a single download, it could owe $4.4 billion to the EU. Facebook could owe $1.6 billion.

"You wouldn't get away with handing out fliers inciting terrorism on the streets of our cities — and it shouldn't be possible to do it on the internet, either," EU security commissioner Julian King said in a statement.

First of all, leaving aside the (very important!) broad free speech concerns around what counts as "terrorist" content, as opposed to just dissenting content, the statement by Julian King is idiotic. If you want to use that analogy, what the Commission is proposing here is the equivalent of if someone was handing out fliers inciting terrorism on the streets of a city, that the city would then get to seize all the buildings on that street. That's almost exactly what this proposal is stating. If you want to go after people distributing terrorist content, go after the people distributing terrorist content. Don't go after the tools they use to post it. That makes no sense.

And, of course, we already know how this is going to lead to massive and widespread censorship. No company is going to want to risk a fine that massive, and with merely 1 hour to respond, no company will have the capability or context to carefully adjudicate the takedown demands to make sure they are proper and aboveboard. Obviously, they'll just start pulling down content incredibly quickly. Indeed, we've already seen what a mess this kind of rule can create. We've talked about the German law that gives sites 24 hours to takedown "hate speech," and how that's already leading to censorship of political speech and satire. Now switch that to just one hour, with even more drastic consequences.

It is literally insane that anyone could possibly think this is a good idea.

Activists are already pointing out that this proposal has simply ignored its obligation to review how such a law would impact human rights, because apparently if you just wave your hands in the air screaming "terrorists' the EU will toss basic human rights out the window.

At some point you have to wonder if the EU really just wants the internet shut off completely.


By Mike Masnick

Mike is the founder and CEO of Floor64 and editor of the Techdirt blog.

He can be found on Twitter here.

(Source:; September 13, 2018;
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