EU Parliament Votes To Require Internet Sites To Delete 'Terrorist Content' In One Hour (By 3 Votes)

from the eu's-ongoing-attack-on-the-internet dept

A bit of deja vu here. Once again, the EU Parliament has done a stupid thing for the internet. As we’ve been discussing over the past few months, the EU has been pushing a really dreadful “EU Terrorist Content Regulation” with the main feature being a requirement that any site that can be accessed from the EU must remove any content deemed “terrorist content” by any vaguely defined “competent authority” within one hour of being notified. The original EU Commission version also included a requirement for filters to block reuploads and a provision that effectively turned websites’ terms of service documents into de facto law. In moving the Regulation to the EU Parliament, the civil liberties committee LIBE stripped the filters and the terms of service parts from the proposal, but kept in the one hour takedown requirement.

In a vote earlier today, the EU Parliament approved the version put for by the committee, rejecting (bad) amendments to bring back the upload filters and empowering terms of service, but also rejecting — by just three votes — an amendment to remove the insane one hour deadline.

Since this version is different than the absolutely bonkers one pushed by the European Commission, this now needs to go through a trilogue negotiation to reconcile the different versions, which will eventually lead to another vote. Of course, what that vote will look like may be anyone’s guess, given that the EU Parliamentary elections are next month, so it will be a very different looking Parliament by the time this comes back around.

Either way, this whole concept is a very poorly thought out knee-jerk moral panic from people scared of the internet and who don’t understand how it works. Actually implementing this in law would be disastrous for the EU and for internet security. The only way, for example, that we could comply with the law would be to hand over backend access to our servers to strangers in the EU and empower them to delete whatever they wanted. This is crazy and not something we would ever agree to do. It is unclear how any company — other than the largest companies — could possibly even pretend to try to comply with the one hour deadline, and even then (as the situation with the Christchurch video showed) there is simply no way for even the largest and best resourced teams out there to remove this kind of content within one hour. And that’s not even touching on the questions around who gets to determine what is “terrorist content,” how it will be abused, and also what this will mean for things like historical archives or open source intelligence.

This entire idea is poorly thought out, poorly implemented and a complete mess. So, of course, the EU Parliament voted for it. Hopefully, in next month’s elections we get a more sensible cohort of MEPs.

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Comments on “EU Parliament Votes To Require Internet Sites To Delete 'Terrorist Content' In One Hour (By 3 Votes)”

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46 Comments
Zgaidin (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I keep seeing this, and while I agree that effectively geo-fencing the EU is the likely result, I don’t think we should call it a case, because it’s a disaster in the making. I think it will happen because the vast bulk of the internet (by site count rather than userbase) won’t have any choice but to do so, but it will be awful for the global economy and the health of the internet as a whole.

Thad (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

There are a whole lot of people in the EU besides the politicians who voted for this.

I’m in the US and Lord knows our government’s done some pretty heinous things over the years. I wouldn’t want to be kicked off the Internet over "a disaster of the US’s own making".

In my experience, the Techdirt community is usually pretty opposed to innocent people being denied access to the Internet just because their country has bad laws.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2

I am opposed to both innocent people being denied Internet access and the bad laws that would deny them such access. The two are not mutually exclusive positions. But if major Internet companies (e.g., Google, Twitter, Facebook) decide to geofence the EU so they can avoid dealing with the bullshit law described in the article, I would not find fault with that decision.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

The bad laws increasingly step on the legal and social norms I expect to be subject to within the United States. EU tyranny impacting me half a world away is a line crossed. The rules they’re passing are uninforceable with outsized harm to the rest of the world using the internet. Geofencing the EU to sit and think about it a bit looks to be the least damaging path to educate their lawmakers.

Seegras (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

I don’t think you can educate the lawmakers. They at most use the top 10 services in the internet. For them, the G-MAFIA (Google. Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, IBM and Amazon) is the internet.

Unless they block the EU completely over this, ideally even stop selling their products, these lawmakers will ignore everything else, foremost their own population.

What’s needed is quite simply a different set of lawmakers. There are elections in May…

Rekrul says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

There are a whole lot of people in the EU besides the politicians who voted for this.

I’m in the US and Lord knows our government’s done some pretty heinous things over the years. I wouldn’t want to be kicked off the Internet over "a disaster of the US’s own making".

The alternative is complying with the new laws. How does complying accomplish anything?

Who has more power, workers who go on strike or workers who keep working while making demands? If they keep working, what incentive is there for management to take their demands seriously?

Similarly in this case, EU politicians (the ones who wanted these laws) will be saying "Gee, the internet companies aren’t happy, but they’re complying with the law, so mission accomplished! Let’s see what else we can force them to do. After all, if they went along with this, they’ll probably go along with pretty much anything." On the other hand, if Europe suddenly found itself cut off from large chunks of the internet, and the populace screaming for the heads of the politicians who did this, they’d be more likely to think "Oh shit, this really backfired on us!" And even if they didn’t, it would probably cause such an uprising that they would almost certainly be voted out in the next election (which is a possibility, but far from a certainty now) and the first order of business for the newly elected MEPs would be reversing these decisions and getting Europe re-connected to the rest of the world.

Yes, it would suck for the innocent people caught in the middle, but if the internet companies aren’t willing to go on "strike", what power do they have to get "management" to consider their demands?

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

It’s not much of a disaster if it doesn’t last long. So let’s look at the historical precedent. The SOPA blackout took all of one day to utterly destroy the bad laws it was targeting. I don’t expect that this would be that fast, because in this case we’re dealing with a bill that has already been passed, but I don’t expect it would take very long either.

Thad (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

If what you’re suggesting is the equivalent of the SOPA blackout — only scheduled for one day, and designed to draw attention to the issue but not actually render major sites unusable — then I could get behind that.

An open-ended commitment to fence the EU off from the global Internet entirely, on the other hand, would be disastrous, and quite possibly counterproductive.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

No, it would lead to a majority of people in the EU using VPN to route around the geofencing. Once enough people are doing that in order to enjoy the internet they had prior to this disaster of a law passing, it would invalidate the law and draw attention that it needs to be removed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I keep seeing this, and while I agree that effectively geo-fencing the EU is the likely result, I don’t think we should call it a case, because it’s a disaster in the making.

When people are saying it will happen, I don’t read any subtext of "…and it won’t be a disaster".

One possibly positive (but unlikely) effect would be an increase in sites encouraging anonymous access. If I run an Onion site, it’ll be really hard to prove I knowingly let a European in—I can’t possibly know where my users are (…until I try to accept money).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Isolating Iraq, Iran, North Korea etc. brought hose regimes to their senses .. not, bit had a big role in turning the citizens against the west because of the suffering that it caused. Do you want to turn European citizens against the US, , because that is who will be blamed for the damage. The politicians will play the our rules are reasonable, and the geofencing is unreasonable card with great success.

Seegras (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Pfft, you don’t need to stir up anti-US sentiment in Europe. While governments are largely pro-US, your own Trump made most of the population anti-US.

The anti US sentiment took a short (and undeserved) break during the Obama-administration, but before that, Bush jr. made sure everyone hated the US by squandering all the sympathy people had for the US after 9/11 with fascist laws (mass surveillance) and the the invention of WMDs to start the Iraq War (in contrast to the US population, at that time 90% of the Europeans KNEW Bush was lying).

And as the US continues to export bad laws (drug prohibition, draconian copyright laws, patents) intervenes in foreign peoples lives (Dotcom, Assange) and generally behaves as a bully, you don’t have to "stir up" any anti US sentiments.

Ironically, the EU is now starting to do the same shit as the US; and there is also a growing anti-EU sentiment within the EU…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I don’t think anyone is suggesting Europe be cut off entirely from US internet. Well, maybe some are but that would be dumb. No, the suggestion is that any site that accepts user content should do so. This would include all of social media, any site with a comments section, Amazon, eBay, etc, etc. Sites that don’t would still be available, e.g. Netflix, Microsoft.com, etc. The internet would get a whole lot more boring for the EU but commerce would be able to continue unimpeded.

Anonymous Coward says:

This entire idea is poorly thought out, poorly implemented and a complete mess. So, of course, the EU Parliament voted for it. Hopefully, in next month’s elections we get a more sensible cohort of MEPs.

That’s a mighty false hope you have there. Be a shame if anything happened to it.

I expect the EUP to vote this sucker into law with nary a peep, no matter who is sitting in the seats. Never underestimate the ability of stupid people in groups—or government—to screw things up.

Thad (profile) says:

Re: Geofencing

Yeah, that’s one of the things that gets me about the whole "just block the EU" argument; I talked about this a bit yesterday.

It’s not like the operators of foreign websites are going to be extradited for violating these laws. The companies who are concerned about it are ones that have operations inside the EU. Either they’re multinationals who have the resources to fight this in court, or they’re smaller companies that only do business within the EU, in which case geoblocking the EU isn’t really an option.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Geofencing

It’s not like the operators of foreign websites are going to be extradited for violating these laws.

No, not extradited, but you might see the occasional employee grabbed while on vacation in (or transit through) Europe. That might make hiring difficult for these foreign companies which are theoretically disinterested in Europe.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Geofencing

I talked about this a bit yesterday.

Again, everyone pointed out why you’re wrong when you talked about this a bit yesterday. I think a big part of it is that you fundamentally misunderstand the motivations involved. It’s not "screw you, I got mine" at all; it’s an invocation of the fundamental right of self-preservation.

Under the conditions that currently exist in reality, Europe should be considered infested with a noxious and potentially deadly disease known as "liability," and there is no way to know if any specific European user is a carrier until they’ve infected your site, at which point it’s too late.

Until such time as they manage to eradicate this pestilence from among themselves, the only sane choice is to place the entire EU under quarantine.

That One Guy (profile) says:

EU Parliament, not big fans of subtlety

They’ve already made clear that they want to cripple and drive out all open platforms from the EU via the link-tax and mandatory filters, leaving only large companies to offer service(if their short-term greed overwhelms their sanity), but damn, they are really working overtime to drive people and services out of the EU.

Be nice if they put even half of the energy they’ve devoted to hamstringing the tech and creative industries, culture and economy into actually serving the public, as I imagine they could have solved so many actual problems if they went that route.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

As a result of Google allowing the EU to wag-the-dog I’ve become very comfortable calling my representatives in the US to use the regulatory sledgehammer. ‘EU sensibilities’ dictating what I can and cannot discuss within the United States increasingly pisses me off, particularly when paired with today’s digital media churnalism using character execution to drive outrage for clicks "Oh hey this guy has a huge audience, lets slander him and that audience will share the story all over the place!"

radix (profile) says:

Call me cynical, but I think there’s another angle, here.

The EU has simply gotten drunk off of literal monopoly money. They’ve fined Microsoft, twice, totaling over 1.4b euros. Google has been hit three times for 8.2b euros, all over anti-trust concerns. Throw in fines to Facebook and others, and they’ve gotten judgements of over 10 BILLION euros outside of normal taxation. Sure, taxes a whole other fustercluck, but suffice to say their payments, whatever they are or aren’t, are legal. It’s easier to blame the American companies than to lobby the Irish and Dutch governments to fully close their tax loopholes.

Now that those cases are settled, what better way to continue to siphon funds from American internet companies than create unrealistic demands and charge penance every time they fail to bend space and time?

This isn’t about terrorism, it’s about money.

Bamboo Harvester (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Agreed. It’s a cash cow that has WORKED in the recent past.

Like every government, the moment they get a cent from someone they declare it their entitlement until the end of time.

We’ve got toll bridges in NY where the tolls are STILL supposed to go to funding the Spanish/American War.

They’re exercising CONTROL. A week without Facebook alone in the EU would probably result in the pols who voted the law in hanging from random lamp posts.

Ben Weiss says:

…and in other news, members of the European Parliament are soon to start one-up’ing each other by sending takedown notices to their Internet service providers claiming that their opponents’ legislative agenda is terrorist material and should be taken down within hours. What could possibly go wrong? Fucking idiot politicians!

Rekrul says:

So the general consensus is that the upload filters that will be required under the new copyright law will only flag content so that it can be blocked for European IP addresses, but leave it visible to everyone else? And when "terrorist" content is reported, it will only be blocked for European IP addresses, but left visible for everyone else?

After all, tons of people are saying "Just use a VPN!" as if masking the fact that a person is in Europe will completely nullify the effects of these laws.

Personally, I don’t think it will be that simple, or the damage that contained, but what do I know…

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