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The minefield for freedom of expression in the newly adopted European regulation on addressing the dissemination of terrorist content online (TERREG)

On 28 April 2021, the European Parliament adopted without a vote in plenary a Regulation (EU) 2021/784 on addressing the dissemination of terrorist content online (TERREG). As a type of EU legal act, TERREG will be binding in its entirety and directly applicable in all Member States from 7 June 2022.

A provision of this act obliges online platforms to remove third party content assessed as terrorist by a competent authority (CA) in an EU Member State within one hour of receiving a removal order from such CA. What is more, CAs may require hosting service providers to take additional measures, including appropriate technical and operational measures.

The regulation categorizes providers differently (and provides for different measures according to the risk assessment required) depending on whether systemic abuses of their services have been identified. TERREG enables them to use automated tools if they deem it appropriate and necessary to effectively tackle the misuse of their online distribution services. In summary, if a higher risk is identified, proactive measures (the so-called filters, well known from the Copyright DSM Directive Article 17) should be put in place to prevent the publication of potential terrorist content.

Less than a year ago, the French Constitutional Court rejected a large part of the national anti-hate bill online, known as Avia Law (in the name of a Macron MP). What Avia Law and the TERREG have in common is that the obligation to remove potentially illegal content does not require a prior court decision. Courts can only be involved when or if a hosting or content provider challenges an order to remove the content before the court of the Member State whose CA issued such an order.

Wikimedia France and Wikimedia Deutschland were among the dozens of human rights and journalism organizations that had signed an open letter to all MEPs calling for the rejection of the controversial TERREG provisions that legitimize “automated online censorship”. The campaign was also supported by international organizations Reporters Without Borders, Human Rights Watch, Communia, European Digital Rights (EDRi) and the Internet Society, the Polish Panoptykon Foundation, the Romanian Asociația pentru Tehnologie și Internet (ApTI), the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee and others.

The whole article can be found here (in Bulgarian language).

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