Today, the European Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) agreed to a new EU regulation to prevent the dissemination of terrorist content online (TERREG). 52 of the members voted in favour of the draft, 14 opposed. It will allow national authorities to have Internet content removed, even if hosted in other Member State, within one hour, without requiring a court order. The proposal has been criticized by numerous NGO’s as well as UN Special Rapporteurs, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ).
Pirate Party MEP Patrick Breyer and his Green/EFA group opposed the regulation. As negotiator for his group (shadow rapporteur), Breyer states:
“In the negotiations we have achieved important partial successes: Preventing an obligation on platforms to use error-prone upload filters, explicitly protecting journalism, art and science as well as introducing an exception for small and non-commercial operators from the 1-hour deletion deadline. Still the unprecedented ultra-fast cross-border removal orders without judicial review threaten freedom of expression and freedom of the press online.
The fact that Victor Orbán will be able to have digital content deleted throughout the EU opens the door to politically motivated internet censorship – especially since the definition of terrorism is alarmingly broad and susceptible to abuse. Anti-terror laws have repeatedly been used for completely different purposes, for example against the Catalan independence movement and Spanish musicians, against social protests in France, against climate activists and immigrants. Cross-border removal orders harmonise freedom of expression in Europe to the lowest common denominator. They also set a precedent and are to be generally introduced with the Digital Services Act. In line with the court ruling on the unconstitutional French AVIA law, this far-reaching EU anti-terror internet regulation likely disproportionately restricts the fundamental right to freedom of expression and will be annulled by the courts. Nothing is more ineffective against terrorism than repealed legislation.
Overall, this regulation is unlikely to prevent terrorist attacks. To prevent terrorist radicalisation and recruitment, it would make more sense to address legitimate grievances such as discrimination against Muslims and human rights violations, and to provide stable funding for civil society work against hate ideology and Islamism, as well as de-radicalisation and exit programmes. Finally, vigorously prosecuting terrorism and messages inciting terrorist actions is of essence. Too often, terrorists have been known to the police for a long time, but their tracks have not been followed up. Yet the new terrorist content online regulation fails to oblige platforms to report criminal terrorist speech to the police, because governments consider systematic prosecution is too much work. This is scandalous.”
Next week the European Parliament will take the final vote on the Regulation.