EU Tells Internet Archive That Much Of Its Site Is 'Terrorist Content'

from the would-be-funny-if-it-weren't-so-dangerous dept

Update: The Internet Archive has issued a minor correction to its original story, noting that it was not actually Europol who sent the demand, but rather the French Internet Referral Unit using the Europol system, so that it looked like it was coming from Europol. Here is there update:

CORRECTION: This post previously identified the sender of the 550 falsely identified URLs as Europol’s EU Internet Referral Unit (EU IRU). The sender was in fact, the French national Internet Referral Unit, using Europol’s application, which sends the email from an @europol.europa.eu address. The EU IRU has informed us that it is not involved in the national IRUs’ assessment criteria of terrorist content.

None of that changes much else with the details of the original story, which remains below:

We've been trying to explain for the past few months just how absolutely insane the new EU Terrorist Content Regulation will be for the internet. Among many other bad provisions, the big one is that it would require content removal within one hour as long as any "competent authority" within the EU sends a notice of content being designated as "terrorist" content. The law is set for a vote in the EU Parliament just next week.

And as if they were attempting to show just how absolutely insane the law would be for the internet, multiple European agencies (we can debate if they're "competent") decided to send over 500 totally bogus takedown demands to the Internet Archive last week, claiming it was hosting terrorist propaganda content.

In the past week, the Internet Archive has received a series of email notices from Europol’s European Union Internet Referral Unit (EU IRU) falsely identifying hundreds of URLs on archive.org as “terrorist propaganda”. At least one of these mistaken URLs was also identified as terrorist content in a separate take down notice from the French government’s L’Office Central de Lutte contre la Criminalité liée aux Technologies de l’Information et de la Communication (OCLCTIC).

And just in case you think that maybe the requests are somehow legit, they are so obviously bogus that anyone with a browser would know they are bogus. Included in the list of takedown demands are a bunch of the Archive's "collection pages" including the entire Project Gutenberg page of public domain texts, it's collection of over 15 million freely downloadable texts, the famed Prelinger Archive of public domain films and the Archive's massive Grateful Dead collection. Oh yeah, also a page of CSPAN recordings. So much terrorist content!

And, as the Archive explains, there's simply no way that (1) the site could have complied with the Terrorist Content Regulation had it been law last week when they received the notices, and (2) that they should have blocked all that obviously non-terrorist content.

The Internet Archive has a few staff members that process takedown notices from law enforcement who operate in the Pacific time zone. Most of the falsely identified URLs mentioned here (including the report from the French government) were sent to us in the middle of the night – between midnight and 3am Pacific – and all of the reports were sent outside of the business hours of the Internet Archive.

The one-hour requirement essentially means that we would need to take reported URLs down automatically and do our best to review them after the fact.

It would be bad enough if the mistaken URLs in these examples were for a set of relatively obscure items on our site, but the EU IRU’s lists include some of the most visited pages on archive.org and materials that obviously have high scholarly and research value.

Those are the requests from Europol, who unfortunately likely qualify as a "competent" authority under the law. The Archive also points out the request from both Europol and the French computer crimes unit targeting a page providing commentary on the Quran as being terrorist content. The French agency told the Archive it needed to take down that content within 24 hours or the Archive may get blocked in France.

It's getting tiring to have to keep repeating this: if the law forces censorship on internet platforms, it's going to be abused widely. Lots of perfectly legitimate content is going to get censored. And, as the Europol demands regarding collection pages show, in ways where it's simply impossible to comply absent blocking basically the entire site in the EU.

Thus, we are left to ask – how can the proposed legislation realistically be said to honor freedom of speech if these are the types of reports that are currently coming from EU law enforcement and designated governmental reporting entities? It is not possible for us to process these reports using human review within a very limited timeframe like one hour. Are we to simply take what’s reported as “terrorism” at face value and risk the automatic removal of things like THE primary collection page for all books on archive.org?

One would hope that EU bureaucrats either at the EU Commission who brought forth this proposal, or in the EU Parliament who will vote on it next week, will be required to answer those questions before this monstrosity moves forward.

Filed Under: archives, eu, eu iru, europol, oclctic, terrorist content, terrorist content regulation
Companies: internet archive


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