The European Union has asked technology companies to remove illegal contents posted on their platforms. On Thursday, the EU published new guidelines on how companies such as Twitter, Google and Facebook should deal with illegal content on their European sites: quickly, proactively and with human supervision.
The European Commission, an executive arm of the European Union, recommends that technology companies free themselves from prohibited materials – such as terrorism, child pornography and hate speech – within one hour of having been warned by the relevant authorities. In addition, it said it would like to see more use of “proactive measures, including automated detection” and human supervisors “to prevent erroneous or unintentional removal of content that is not illegal.”
It’s worth emphasizing that these are just guidelines, at least for now. The recommendations do not have the power to force companies act accordingly. In the meantime, the Commission has already stated that it will monitor the effect and use the “necessary legislation” if the desired results are not achieved.
It is not the first time the body has attempted to threaten technology giants with such things. In September of last year , it published recommendations for Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft. Prior to that, in December 2016, it threatened these same companies for failing to effectively enforce a code of conduct signed in May 2016. The document asked them to resolve hate speech cases in 24 hours.
As you can see, a voluntary agreement to remove offensive content in 24 hours has already proved futile. It is not clear why, after all, companies would now, with good heart, comply with the recommendation that gives only one hour to act in such cases. The Commission seems to be betting heavily on automation (and the companies themselves).
In any case, there is definitely a need to act with urgency in such cases. An hour on the internet can last a lifetime. It is better to have a deadline proposal than simply to expect companies to respond to public pressure.