CDT and Human Rights Organisations Urge Ministers to Reconsider Proposed EU Terrorist Content Rules, Citing Threats to Free Expression

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Ahead of this week’s meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council, the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) and thirty-two European and international human and digital rights organisations and experts call on Ministers to reconsider or significantly redraft the European Commission’s proposed ‘Regulation on preventing the dissemination of terrorist content online’. In a joint letter, we warn that the proposal will harm free speech, journalism, and access to information.

CDT’s Director for European Affairs Jens-Henrik Jeppesen said, “Combating terrorism is obviously an important goal, but this regulation is unlikely to succeed. This regulation will force website operators to restrict legitimate speech and stifle journalism, commentary, and debate about serious societal problems.”

Jeppesen continued, “The Commission seems to assume that if you could scrub the internet of any material pertaining to terrorism, you would eliminate the threat of terrorist violence. This idea is not supported by the Commission’s own counter-terrorism experts.”

The Regulation would require any website that allows users to share content to install technology to systematically scan, monitor, and filter uploads, with the goal of keeping ‘terrorist content’ off the web. With the Regulation’s vague and broad definitions of ‘terrorist content’, this will likely result in overbroad censorship of journalism, academic research, and political debate about terrorism and and the conditions that create it. Furthermore, any website host would have to respond to takedown orders within one hour, which would be a enormous challenge even for global internet companies — and crippling for European small companies and entrepreneurs. Failure to comply with the requirements of the Regulation would carry heavy fines.

On Thursday, the Ministers will discuss and vote on a ‘General Approach’ on the proposed Regulation. The organisations behind the letter urge Ministers to consider carefully whether the proposal is necessary and justified. The Regulation must be amended significantly to guard against censorship and protect free expression and access to information.

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