UPDATE 1-EU set to demand Internet firms act faster to remove illegal content

* EU wants step up in efforts against illegal online content

* Does not rule out further legislation

* Offers guidance on how such content can be removed quickly
(Adds company comments)

By Julia Fioretti

BRUSSELS, Sept 13 (Reuters) – Companies including Google
, Facebook and Twitter could face
European Union laws forcing them to be more proactive in
removing illegal content if they do not do more to police what
is available on the Internet.

The European Union executive outlined in draft guidelines
reviewed by Reuters how Internet firms should step up efforts
with measures such as establishing trusted flaggers and taking
voluntary measures to detect and remove illegal content.

Proliferating illegal content, whether because it infringes
copyright or incites terrorism, has sparked heated debate in
Europe between those who want online platforms to do more to
tackle it and those who fear it could impinge on free speech.

The companies have significantly stepped up efforts to
tackle the problem of late, agreeing to an EU code of conduct to
remove hate speech within 24 hours and forming a global working
group to combine their efforts remove terrorist content from
their platforms.

Existing EU legislation shields online platforms from
liability for the content that is posted on their websites,
limiting how far policymakers can force companies, who are not
required to actively monitor what goes online, to act.

“Online platforms need to significantly step up their
actions to address this problem,” the draft EU guidelines say.

“They need to be proactive in weeding out illegal content,
put effective notice-and-action procedures in place, and
establish well-functioning interfaces with third parties (such
as trusted flaggers) and give a particular priority to
notifications from national law enforcement authorities.”


The guidelines, expected to be published at the end of the
month, are non-binding but further legislation is not ruled out
by Spring 2018, depending on progress made by the companies.

However, a Commission source said any legislation would not
change the liability exemption for online platforms in EU law.

A spokesman for Twitter had no comment on the draft but
pointed to the company’s latest data on its efforts to tackle
abuse showing it was taking action on ten times the number of
abusive accounts every day compared to the same time last year.

Facebook and Google declined to comment.

The Commission wants the companies to develop “trusted
flaggers” – experienced bodies with expertise in identifying
illegal content – whose notifications would be given high
priority and could lead to the automatic removal of content.

It also encourages web companies to publish transparency
reports with detailed information on the number and type of
notices received and actions taken and says the Commission will
explore options to standardise such transparency reports.

The guidelines also contain safeguards against excessive
removal of content, such as giving its owners a right to contest
such a decision.

The Commission wants companies to hone technology used to
automatically detect illegal content so that the volume which
needs to be reviewed by a human before being deemed illegal can
be narrowed down.
(Reporting by Julia Fioretti; editing by Alexander Smith and
Toby Chopra)

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