The EU’s online terrorist statute: Threat to Fundamental Rights

Several human rights organisations, including Amnesty International, the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and Human Rights Watch, have signed a letter opposing the implementation of a new EU Regulation aimed at preventing the spread of terrorist material online (the Proposed Regulation).

Initial EU counter-terrorism efforts started in 2013, with the discovery of a range of areas where the EU could intervene, such as intelligence sharing and criminal justice reforms. To reduce the accessibility of terrorist content online, voluntary frameworks and alliances were introduced in 2015.

Following a series of attacks dating back to 2015, the European Commission introduced legislation in 2018 to effectively combat terrorist content online, which were used as a framework for the New Regulation.

According to the Proposed Law, hosting service providers would be obliged to delete “illegal terrorist content” if an administrative or judicial authority issues a removal order. “Illegal terrorist content,” according to the proposed regulation, is “information that is used to incite and glorify the commission of terrorist offences, encouraging the contribution to and providing instructions for committing terrorist offences, and promoting involvement in terrorist groups.

Human rights advocates claim that the New Law would set a “dangerous precedent for online content regulation around the world” and pose a significant threat to fundamental rights. Human rights organisations are concerned that the Proposed Regulation will give EU Member States unilateral authority to order sites such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter to delete online content hosted in another Member State without any process for judicial review or any requirement to respect individuals’ rights to post such content.

This power would allow for the removal of content hosted anywhere in the EU within one hour of its publication.

The Proposed Regulation will be put to a final vote in the European Parliament in April 2021, and civil rights organisations are urging members of the European Parliament to vote negatively.

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