For immediate release | Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Regulation Is Needed To Protect Citizens From Terrorist Content Online

Press Contact:

Media at CEP

(New York, N.Y.) – The dissemination of terrorist content online is one of the most challenging and dangerous misuses of online platforms by users. This propaganda of hate has an untold impact on the radicalization, recruitment, and training of terrorists across Europe and beyond.

As such, the Regulation on Preventing the Dissemination of Terrorist Content Online (TCO) is one of the most crucial pieces of legislation to pass through European legislators in recent years. The regulation will be a cornerstone of protection against harmful terrorist content. It should work in tandem with the Digital Services Act (DSA) to rid internet platforms of extremist posts and videos.

Ahead of the next closed-door negotiations, or trilogues, for the TCO on 29 October 2020, the Counter Extremism Project (CEP) welcomes this vital step towards combating online terrorism and urges the European Commission to enact comprehensive legislation which protects our citizens.

David Ibsen, Executive Director of CEP, said:

“Online radicalization is one of the most insidious threats facing European citizens as extremists exploit social media to spread their propaganda easily and quickly, explicitly targeting those most vulnerable to their messaging.

The continued ease of access to hyper-violent imagery and videos on social media demonstrates tech companies’ failure to keep their promises and address the prevalence of extremist and terrorist content online. What is not tolerated in public spaces should not be accepted on social media. 

The recent surge of terror attacks in France has shown now, more than ever before, we need to clamp down on the spread of terrorist content online. It is possible that such devastating events can be prevented through the suppression of harmful, violent, terrorist images, and videos.

More concrete action against online terrorist content must continue to materialize across the European Union. Only through sustained determination and coordination through the Member States can online extremism be fought and ultimately eradicated.”

Lucinda Creighton, Senior Advisor to CEP said:

“We welcome the resumption of discussions on the Regulation on Preventing Terrorist Content Online (TCO), particularly the focus this week on proactive measures. For too long, this salient piece of legislation lay stagnant at the negotiation stage. Finally, progress is being made, and it is more important than ever to remain unified in our goals for the TCO, namely transparency, oversight, and accountability.

While we welcome the common position between the EU institutions on the need for meaningful transparency in removing terrorist content, human oversight and verification in removal decisions and the issuance of fines for internet companies that fail to remove terrorist content within an hour, we are at a loss as to why, given the above safeguards, the Parliament remains hesitant to support the use of automated tools.

As our research on the German NetzDG law continues to demonstrate, flagging systems, whether by users or competent authorities, are insufficient alone to grapple with the sheer volume of content being generated online. CEP advocates for the use of automated tools with human verification to identify and remove known-terrorist content. This approach has had an enormously positive effect on suppressing the dissemination of child pornography globally and can do the same for terrorist content online. 

The claim from digital rights defenders and likeminded members of the European Parliament that the deployment of automated technology and other tools would result in ‘over-blocking’ and undermine the so-called ‘free internet’ was thoroughly debunked when reviewing the impact of the NetzDG law in Germany.

We call on the Parliament to build on its good work in providing safeguards against the abuse of content removal systems and support the use of automated tools through meaningful transparency and accountability practices. Platforms are already routinely deploying these tools to tackle copyright infringement and pornography.

CEP believes that with such an approach, EU citizens can be truly protected online against the dissemination of terrorist content.

We urge the Parliament, Commission and Council to conclude the negotiations on the TCO before attention turns to the Digital Services Act.”