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New measures to combat illegal content online being considered

EU policy makers are considering introducing new measures to combat illegal content posted on the internet.04 May 2018

The European Commission has opened a new consultation to gather views from organisations reporting the presence of illegal content online, law enforcement agencies, regulators and online platforms, among others, on the need for additional measures to address the problem, including whether those measures should be detailed in legislation.

The consultation, open until 25 June, also asks respondents to rate the importance of the role various stakeholders in the market have to play in tackling illegal content online, from hosting providers to rights holders, and whether there is a need to speed up the process of removing illegal content online.

"The availability and proliferation of illegal content online remains an important public policy and security concern in the EU, notably with regards to the dissemination of terrorist content, as well as of illegal hate speech, child sexual abuse material, or illegal commercial practices and infringements of intellectual property rights, selling of illicit drugs, counterfeits or other illicit goods," the Commission said.

"The Commission is collecting evidence on the effectiveness of measures and the scale of the problem, and will explore, by the end of 2018, further measures to improve the effectiveness of combating illegal content online," it said. 

Under the EU's existing E-Commerce Directive, content hosts are generally protected from liability for material that they neither create nor monitor but simply store or pass on to users of their service.

Service providers are not liable for infringement via their services if they do not have "actual knowledge" or an awareness of the illegal activity. In circumstances where they obtain such knowledge, providing a service provider "acts expeditiously to remove or to disable access to the information" they are not liable for that infringement.

Under the Directive, service providers can not be put under any general obligation to police illegal activity on their service.

Last autumn, the Commission issued a communication on illegal content online in which it said online platforms would not expose themselves to becoming liable for illegal content uploaded by their users by proactively detecting and removing such material from their sites.

At the time, the Commission said online platforms should "adopt effective proactive measures to detect and remove illegal content online and not only limit themselves to reacting to notices which they receive", and it  backed the use of technologies that enable platforms to automatically detect illegal content, including material that has been previously uploaded and removed.