EU Parliament Votes To Require Internet Sites To Delete ‘Terrorist Content’ In One Hour (By 3 Votes)

A bit of deja vu here. Once again, the EU Parliament has done a stupid thing for the internet. As we’ve been discussing over the past few months, the EU has been pushing a really dreadful “EU Terrorist Content Regulation” with the main feature being a requirement that any site that can be accessed from the EU must remove any content deemed “terrorist content” by any vaguely defined “competent authority” within one hour of being notified. The original EU Commission version also included a requirement for filters to block reuploads and a provision that effectively turned websites’ terms of service documents into de facto law. In moving the Regulation to the EU Parliament, the civil liberties committee LIBE stripped the filters and the terms of service parts from the proposal, but kept in the one hour takedown requirement.

In a vote earlier today, the EU Parliament approved the version put for by the committee, rejecting (bad) amendments to bring back the upload filters and empowering terms of service, but also rejecting — by just three votes — an amendment to remove the insane one hour deadline.

Since this version is different than the absolutely bonkers one pushed by the European Commission, this now needs to go through a trilogue negotiation to reconcile the different versions, which will eventually lead to another vote. Of course, what that vote will look like may be anyone’s guess, given that the EU Parliamentary elections are next month, so it will be a very different looking Parliament by the time this comes back around.

Either way, this whole concept is a very poorly thought out knee-jerk moral panic from people scared of the internet and who don’t understand how it works. Actually implementing this in law would be disastrous for the EU and for internet security. The only way, for example, that we could comply with the law would be to hand over backend access to our servers to strangers in the EU and empower them to delete whatever they wanted. This is crazy and not something we would ever agree to do. It is unclear how any company — other than the largest companies — could possibly even pretend to try to comply with the one hour deadline, and even then (as the situation with the Christchurch video showed) there is simply no way for even the largest and best resourced teams out there to remove this kind of content within one hour. And that’s not even touching on the questions around who gets to determine what is “terrorist content,” how it will be abused, and also what this will mean for things like historical archives or open source intelligence.

This entire idea is poorly thought out, poorly implemented and a complete mess. So, of course, the EU Parliament voted for it. Hopefully, in next month’s elections we get a more sensible cohort of MEPs.

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