Top EU Official Details Proposal To Address Content Moderation, Liability Issues With Tech Companies

European Union (EU) digital-policy and antitrust czar Margrethe Vestager took sharp aim at U.S. tech companies last week, detailing a comprehensive plan to regulate tech companies, including proposals to curb their anticompetitive behavior. The new measures aim to compel tech firms to pay more taxes and take more responsibility for illegal content on their platforms.

The renewed focus on holding tech accountable for material on their sites builds upon the EU’s recently proposed Terrorist Content Regulation, which generated significant opposition from tech companies. As the Counter Extremism Project (CEP) has previously noted, the measure would allow EU member states to impose fines on tech firms of up to four percent of their revenue for failure to consistently remove extremist content from their platforms. It would also require a takedown of said extremist content within one hour of receiving notice from public authorities—a reasonable standard, given that the longer terrorist propaganda and recruiting materials remain online, the more its viewership will increase and the higher the likelihood that it will be viewed, copied, and uploaded elsewhere.

“The EU’s proposed regulations and continued focus on extremist content online are a welcomed tough line on big tech, that will contribute to the establishment of responsible content moderation policies worldwide,” said CEP Executive Director David Ibsen. “The EU’s efforts together with the U.S. Justice Department’s proposal to roll back tech companies’ broad legal protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) illustrate a growing international consensus to reform outdated and ineffective policies concerning the tech industry. These developments are clearly a result of increasing frustration with tech’s ongoing failure to keep extremist and terrorist content off their platforms.”

The proposals are the latest in a movement by policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic to rein in the power and influence of big tech companies by rolling back legal protections that have long shielded them from liability. In June, the U.S. Department of Justice outlined recommendations to modify Section 230 of the CDA to remove blanket immunity for harmful content posted by third parties, including terrorist content that appears on online platforms. As CEP previously addressed, reform to Section 230 would be a necessary step to updating the legal framework of an aged and ineffective policy that shields big tech from liability for content that proliferates on its sites.

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On May 8, 2019, Taliban insurgents detonated an explosive-laden vehicle and then broke into American NGO Counterpart International’s offices in Kabul. At least seven people were killed and 24 were injured.

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