In the face of the permanent threat of terrorism, the European Union (EU) intensified its battle on the internet against this scourge with recent legislative initiatives.
Rosmerys Bernal Piña
The European Commission (EC) strengthened the operational measures with the approval of resolution 2018/334 last March, which establishes actions that should be adopted by EU member states to combat the use of computer networks by extremist groups. In accordance with this legislation, businesses must have proactive instruments to detect and take down illicit content from the “network of networks”, particularly terrorist material, and those that incite hate or violence.
The implementation of appropriate legal obligations was also mentioned, such as greater cooperation with authorities by online companies, who should immediately inform Security Forces about the detection of such publications.
The EU recognises terrorism as a threat to the security, values, rights and freedoms of its citizens.
Social networks and online platforms are used for recruitment, radicalisation and incitement in these areas, with different types of information in secret or on the public domain.
They are also used in the financing, training, planning and execution of attacks or cyber attacks, as they allow long-distance and easy communication with any part of the world.
Last 14 and 15 March, Europol’s Internet Referral Unit, alongside colleagues from Belgium, France, Netherlands, Slovenia and the United Kingdom, identified more than 900 articles of this type of propaganda on the blog service WordPress.com. Among this material they found videos of extremist activities and web pages glorifying or supporting those violent demonstrations.
During those days, specialised units did a qualitative evaluation of the detected content, in which there was evidence of recurring themes with the aim of recruiting and radicalising more people.
The use of the “network of networks” for these aims is a phenomenon that spread very quickly. This is why a response is necessary that is dynamic, regular, transparent and coordinated between the member states, security forces and online platforms, according to what experts believe.
In 2013, the then-Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, insisted that “the internet is a prime example of how terrorists can behave in a fully transnational way”, therefore combatting it should work and be thought about in this same way.
In 2015, the European Parliament Resolution warned about these issues, and the need to work for the prevention of radicalisation or recruitment of citizens of the old continent by terrorist organisations.
At the end of 2017, the European commissioner for Migration and Foreign Affairs, Dimitris Avramopoulos, specified that cooperation allowed more than 90% of those publications to be eliminated from digital pages.
As part of this effort he created the EU Internet Forum, which brought together EU governments with platforms such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft for automatic detection, with greater speed and scope, of that content online.
In March 2018, the EC affirmed in a statement the importance of stopping the diffusion of those materials in a maximum period of one hour from when the authorities of each country and Europol report them.
According to the Community Executive, this propaganda constitutes a “grave security risk” and it is “most harmful in the first hours of its appearance online”.
In recent years, the Forum has also established contact with another 20 companies, among them Instagram, Snapchat, WordPress and Yellow, while they announced their interest in incorporating new companies, even the smallest ones.
Some progress has happened in recent times. For example, three quarters of 300,000 Twitter accounts were eliminated in the first half of 2017. These were removed even before they were able to publish their first Tweet.
In the same way, since June 2017, some 150,000 YouTube videos have been deleted, more than 80% automatically detected, meanwhile Facebook did away with 83% of terrorist content originally appearing on its platform and the copies uploaded in the next hour.
On the other hand, violence, incitement to hatred, racism, xenophobia, disclosure of materials about sexual abuse or those related to falsification of data and copyright are also punishable on the internet. On several occasions, Brussels recommended that companies improve their notification rules for illegal content, also for the users, in a way that makes the process easier and avoids the involuntary elimination of other materials.
Measures such as supervision and human verification, for example, can guarantee the respect of fundamental rights for internet-users, such as greater freedom of expression and protection of personal data. (PL)
(Translated by Donna Davison – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org) – Photos: Pixabay