Civil rights groups urge EU lawmakers to reject the terrorist online content law

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: European Union flags flutter outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels

From Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – EU lawmakers should oppose a bill that would force Google (NASDAQ :), Facebook (NASDAQ 🙂 and Twitter to remove terrorist content within an hour of its release due to the risks to fundamental rights, 61 civil rights groups said next Thursday.

The European Commission drafted the legislation in 2018 after a spate of attacks by radicalized attackers from single wolves in several European cities, with online terror content seen as one of the factors.

The European Parliament is expected to vote on the legislation next month, three months after a political agreement with EU countries.

Civil rights groups, which include Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Union for Civil Liberties for Europe and the European Federation of Journalists, said the proposal threatened freedom of expression, access to information, the right to privacy and the rule of law.

The Commission defines online terrorist content as material that causes terrorism or is aimed at the recruitment or training of terrorists.

The short timeframe for online platforms to remove terrorist content meant they would likely use automated content moderation tools like upload filters, the groups said.

You said such tools might fail to tell the differences between activism, counter-speech and satire about terrorism.

“Increased automation will ultimately lead to the removal of legal content such as news content and content aimed at discriminating against minorities and underrepresented groups,” the groups citing the examples of the Syrian and Yemeni archives – two non-governmental organizations that archive video from conflict areas in the Middle East .

The groups also questioned the power given to national authorities, rather than the courts, to order deportation of terrorist content across the bloc, saying it was a state overreach.

“This regulation could also give authoritarians an opportunity to stamp out criticism beyond their limits. This means that executives like Viktor Orban could ask an online platform to remove content hosted in another country because he doesn’t like it,” said Eva Simon, Senior Advocacy Officer at the Civil Liberties Union.

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