Cybersecurity: plans to fight terrorist propaganda online

Cybersecurity: plans to fight terrorist propaganda online

The European Commission have proposed a new set of rules to combat terrorist propaganda online, GEQ reports on the plans that have been announced.

Terrorism is a threat to European security, and tackling terrorism is a top priority for the EU and its Member States. According to a Europol report, there were 718 arrests related to jihadist terrorism in 2016 and the overall level of activity in the EU attributed to jihadist terrorism remains high. The European Commission have released a number of policies and strategies to beat terrorism, the latest being a crackdown on terrorist propaganda online.

During the 2018 State of Union Address, which took place at the beginning of September in Brussels, Belgium, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker proposed a new set of ‘rules’ that will aim to remove terrorist propaganda online within one hour of upload.

Terrorist propaganda and recruitment has found its way on to social media and the use of the internet for radicalisation is on the rise.The UK Home Office released figures that shows that terrorist organisation, Isis, shared 27,000 links to extremist content in the first five months in 2017, which remained online for an average of 36 hours. The European Commission stated that in January 2018 alone, almost 700 new pieces of official Da’esh propaganda was shared online.

Ensuring the rapid detection and removal of terrorist content online is crucial to prevent further dissemination across other platforms. Some internet platforms have failed to engage in voluntary efforts to remove content from their sites. Many of the recent attacks in Europe have exposed terrorists’ increased use of the internet in planning, recruiting and carrying out attacks; the role of the internet is becoming a well-known aid in allowing terrorist organisations to train, facilitate and direct terrorist activity. This has led to more discussion and debate from the Commission about new strategies to fight terror content online and ensure the internet remains safe from radicalisation.

In light of this, Juncker announced new rules and propositions to protect European citizens by making cyberspace free from terrorist propaganda. The key features of the Commission’s new rules are outlined below.

A clear definition of terrorist content

The Commission have come up with a definition of terrorist content, making detection of online content clearer, the definition is as follows: ‘material that incites or advocates committing terrorist offences, promotes the activities of a terrorist group or provides instruction in techniques for committing terrorist offences.’

The one-hour rule

The commission is proposing a one hour-deadline that is to be legally binding, meaning all content is to be removed within one hour following a removal order from national authorities, this is because research has shown that terrorist content is most harmful within the first hours in which it appears online.

A duty of care obligation

A duty of care obligation across all platforms will ensure that they are not being misused for the dissemination of terrorist content online. Under the new rules, servers will also be required to take proactive measures for better protection of their platforms and their users.

Increased co-operation

The Commission is proposing effective complaint mechanisms that content providers will be able to rely on and that all service providers will be required to put in place. The Commission have stated that effective judicial remedies will also be provided by national authorities, however platforms and content providers will have the right to challenge a removal order. During the speech it was also mentioned that for platforms making use of automated detection tools, human oversight and verification should be in place to prevent erroneous removals.

Strong and deterrent financial penalties

Monetary incentives are an important factor in all policy and regulation, to enhance activity and also to embargo unwanted activity. With this in mind the Commission have proposed that Member States will have to put in place effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties for anybody who does not comply with the orders to remove online terrorist content. In the speech it was mentioned that in the event of systematic failures to remove content following an order, service providers could face financial penalties of up to 4% of their global turnover for the last business year.

This information comes from the European Commission following the 2018 State of Union Address and Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, Mariya Gabriel said: “This regulation is a response to citizens’ concerns. We propose specific rules for terrorism content which is particularly harmful for our security and for trust in the digital. What is illegal offline is also illegal online. The EU continues to stay engaged in order to build a safer, human-centric internet based on our values.


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