EU Wants a Protocol for Illegal Online Content

     (CN) – The European Commission announced plans to remove illegal content on the Internet by revamping its “notice and action” procedures.
     Under the EU’s E-Commerce Directive, Internet service providers and website-hosting services are required to verify and remove illegal material upon receiving notice of such activities.
     But the directive does not directly say what constitutes a valid notice to a service provider, or what actions ISPs must take in response to a notification.
     For instance, according to a commission paper on digital market stability, Article 14 of the directive grants safe harbor to providers with illegal material on a site if they do not have “actual knowledge” of illegal activity or information.
     But some member states say a court order is necessary for “actual knowledge,” while others say it is enough for a user to post a “red flag” on the content.
     The paper also notes a lack of common understanding on what it means to “expeditiously disable” illegal content once a provider receives notice.
     In Poland the information has to be “disabled” but not removed, while Sweden requires that providers prevent its “further dissemination.”
     The commission says civil rights organizations have complained that the absence of unionwide procedures caused individual companies to develop extreme policies, either taking down information on any unverified complaint or disregarding complaints entirely.
     The Center for Democracy & Technology said on its website it was important that “notice-and-action frameworks do not come at the expense of online free expression and access to information.”
     To resolve these issues, the commission put several questions up for public comment.
     “Should all hosting service providers put in place mechanisms to notify illegal content that are easy to find and easy to use,” it asked. If so, should those mechanisms should be the only means of notification?
     The commission also asked, “Should hosting service providers consult the providers of alleged illegal content” before taking it down and “should they provide feedback to notice providers?”
     The public has until Sept. 3 to comment.

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