Antiterrorist Censorship: The EU Commission Wants to Kill the Decentralized Internet

12 September 2018 - This morning, as everybody was looking at the Copyright Directive adoption, the EU Commission released a proposal for a Regulation on the censorship of terrorist propaganda.

This proposal would impose new obligations to hosting service providers, including the removal in less than an hour of the reported content. This proposal trivializes police and private censorship as well as the circumvention of justice. Automated filters, which play a crucial role in the debate on the Copyright Directive, are becoming the core component of censorship regimes in the digital era1.

The fact is that only a few big online platforms would be able to comply to these news obligations - in particular the one-hour deadline. Others - the vast majority of which, since the beginning, have been the body of the Internet, will never be able to comply with these obligations and will permanently be exposed to sanctions.

If this text is to be adopted, the quasi-monopolies of the Internet (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Twitter...) would be elevated as key players of the securitarian policies of the Member States and reinforced in their more than dominant position - every other service will be forced to shut down, including decentralised services which best protect our freedom.

After loosely claiming to defend our rights with the GDPR, the European Commission is radically changing its targets and now aims at destroying the rules of law by fraternising with multinationals that exploit our freedoms. The fact is that only the decentralized Internet, governed in a democratic way, can provide appropriate modes of control for online content. This is one of the most relevant way to stop the spread of hate speech and other abuse of freedom of expression.

The proposal is not only useless in many respects - online giants are already monitoring and censoring terrorist contents in cooperation with public authorities2. It is also counterproductive: its main effect would be to destroy the only version of Internet compatible with our basic freedoms.

The proposal has just been published. Debates will follow at the EU level We will contribute to these debates with determination.

  • 1. According to the proposal, every hosting service provider on the Internet, whatever its size or its operation, would have to remove terrorist content within one hour upon receiving a removal order by a national authority (Article 4). These authorities would also be able to impose censorship, based not on national law but on the terms and conditions of these providers (Article 5). Finally, providers are invited to take proactive measures, including through automated means, to scan online contents and block those they consider a terrorist content (article 6)
  • 2. Since 2015, Members States like France and agencies like Europol have developed numerous partnerships with the digital giants to fight against terrorism propaganda, frequently in defiance of international law.