EU Passes New Law to Tackle Online Terrorist Speech But Why Are Rights Groups Upset?

The European Parliament has passed stricter rules than ever before, requiring online platforms in the EU to remove or restrict access to online content deemed “terrorist” within one hour of receiving a request to do so from the competent authorities of a member state. But the legislation has made NGOs and rights groups such as Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders uneasy that the measures could be used to restrict freedom of expression.

The EU will impose tougher regulations against terrorist online speech. Members of the European Parliament unanimously supported the legislation without a vote Wednesday, making no changes to the agreement reached last December between EU member states on the issue.

Under the new rules, online platforms operating in EU countries will be forced to quickly remove or block offensive speech or face fines of up to 4 percent of global turnover. The rules will apply even if the censorship order comes from another EU country, but the country where the incident occurred will have 72 hours to assess whether the censorship order is reasonable and does not violate fundamental rights.

Content posted for educational, journalistic, artistic or research purposes is exempt from this provision.

Following the publication of the regulation in the EU Official Journal, member states will have to incorporate it into their national laws starting at the end of next month, and it will officially go into effect one year later.

According to EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson, who announced the legislation, “This regulation will make it more difficult for terrorists to misuse the Internet to recruit, incite attacks and glorify atrocities.”

According to AFP, however, the legislation has unnerved NGOs and rights groups such as Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders, who fear the measures will be used to restrict freedom of expression.