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Ref. Ares(2019)3109197 - 10/05/2019
Tackling Illegal Content Online:
Meeting with Online Platforms
9th January 2018 - Brussels
Meeting held under the Chatham House Rules
With terrorist material increasingly available online and with illegal hate speech not only
affecting its victim but also undermining freedom of information and expression online,
governments at EU1
and G7/G20 level have consistently underlined the imperative to tackle
the spread of illegal content. In particular, they have called on the Internet industry to step
up their efforts in combatting illegal content online, in particular by developing new
technology tools to improve the automatic detection and removal of content.
The fight against il egal content spreading online is now entering into a new phase
Last September, the European Commission published the Communication “Tackling illegal
content online – towards an enhanced responsibility of online platforms” (COM(2017) 555
Non-binding in nature, the Communication sets the policy goals and cal ed on online
platforms to cooperate pro-actively in the fight against illegal content online.
While online platforms play a key role in innovation and growth in the digital economy, they
also carry a significant societal responsibility in terms of protecting users and society at large
– and in particular in preventing criminals, terrorists and other persons involved in infringing
activities online from exploiting their services. The Communication made clear that the
Commission expected online platforms to take swift action over the coming months,
including in the context of ongoing dialogues
With this meeting, the European Commission seeks to engage with online platforms
constructively. The level of engagement, as well as the facts and responses gathered during
the meeting from online platforms will be significant for the Commission's assessment on
whether additional measures are needed. This assessment will be based on evidence of concrete results achieved:
the Communication was a signal that decisive steps were needed
and that the Commission was ready to act if required
to ensure the swift and proactive
detection and removal of illegal content online.
1 European Council of 22-23 June and 19 October 2017
More concretely, the European Commission called on online platforms to step up their
in tackling illegal content, in particular by:
- establishing an easily accessible and user-friendly notification mechanism;
- cooperating with law enforcement and other competent authorities, including by
- appointing effective points of contact in the EU and where appropriate define
effective digital interfaces;
- allowing trusted flaggers to have a privileged relationship, while ensuring sufficient
standards as regards training, quality assurance or safeguards;
- using proactive measures to detect, identify and swiftly remove within the shortest
possible timeframes illegal content including where appropriate through the use of
automatic detection technologies;
- taking measures against repeat infringers and preventing the re-appearance of illegal
content , in particular through the use of automated tools;
- This general set of principles is complemented by more detailed and targeted
objectives in the context of sectorial dialogues (presented below).
At the same time, the Commission fully endorses the need to keep the Internet an open
space for the exercise of freedom of expression and information
. The Communication
recalled the Commission's commitment to maintaining a balanced and predictable liability
regime for online platforms. It also provided guidance on a number of important safeguards:
- Providing transparency on content policy and on the outcome of the application of
the notice-and-action mechanism;
- Offering simple online counter-notices procedures against excessive or erroneous
Progress on collaborative efforts
The Commission has already initiated several dialogues with different online platforms,
which cooperate proactively in the common goal of countering illegal content online. These
efforts have already given encouraging results, but need to translate into further concrete
The EU Internet Forum
was launched in December 2015 to reduce accessibility to terrorist content
online and to empower civil society partners to increase the volume of effective alternative
narratives online. On 6th December 2017 companies reported progress: the consortium of
companies connected to the Database of Hashes, announced one year ago, has tripled in size (from
4 to 12, with other few in ongoing negotiations to join); the database contains over 40.000 hashes
of known terrorist images and videos and companies have committed to include a repository of
Europol's 5000 videos. There is a clear commitment from some companies on automated detection
of terrorist propaganda, with increasing success rates in the identification of terrorist content.
Three of them have reported removing 83 to 99% of identified terrorist content by using their own
tools. The EU Internet Forum has furthermore reached out and engaged with over 20 companies.
The EU Internet Referral Unit at Europol continues to flag content. Over 40,000 decisions for
referral across over 80 platforms in more than 10 languages have been triggered. On average, the
content flagged for referrals has been removed in 86% of the cases.
On the basis of these results, the 6th December meeting identified the need for a more detailed,
transparent and consistent reporting. Europol and the Commission are currently working on a
detailed reporting mechanism. Companies have also been cal ed to use the database of hashes to
its full potential. The need for further progress has also been identified in relation to the speed of
removal, to the reporting of identified content to law enforcement and to the engagement of and
cooperation with additional platforms, in particular small and medium sized ones. Progress will be
discussed at the next Senior Official meeting of the EU Internet Forum to be held in the first week of
The Commission facilitates stakeholder dialogues that promote collaborative approaches and
voluntary, practical solutions to better enforce intellectual property rights in an evolving
technological and commercial environment.
The Commission facilitated the conclusion of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the
online sale of counterfeit goods
which brought together internet platforms, brand owners and
trade associations. In November 2017, the Commission published an overview of the functioning of
the MoU. The results are based on data obtained in relation to the key performance indicators set
out in the MoU and feedback gathered from the MoU signatories.
The results of the work under the MoU are positive. They show that the MoU has effectively
contributed to removing counterfeit products from online marketplaces and that it is a useful forum
which al ows trust and cooperation between parties to be strengthened.
In May 2016 the European Commission together with Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube
announced a Code of Conduct on countering il egal online hate speech
. It includes a series of
voluntary commitments to combat the spread of such content in Europe. Results of the evaluation
of the Code of Conduct are encouraging in terms of the response to notifications on hate speech
online deemed illegal under EU law. It has also allowed developing partnership between these
companies, national authorities and civil society organisations (including broadening the "trusted
The next important step is to promote the uptake of the commitments in the Code of Conduct by a
wider group of IT platforms in the shared endeavour to share a collective responsibility and pride in
promoting and facilitating freedom of expression throughout the online world. This action is
complementary to the core objective of ensuring that authors of il egal hate speech offences -
whether online or offline - are effectively prosecuted. The Commission works closely with Member
State authorities and civil society on assessing practical obstacles to law enforcements' access to
information held by IT Intermediaries needed to investigate offences committed online
Other dialogues are related to child sexual abuse material (INHOPE network), safety of
products sold online, the Internet sale of food chain products, illegal commercial practices,
collaborative short-term rental accommodation services or wildlife trafficking. Purpose of the meeting
This meeting gathers a wide spectrum of internet platforms. The Commission acknowledges
the existing differences in terms of size, origin, or business sector. All the views represented
in this sample of platforms are vital to better understand the possibilities and challenges of
further cooperation among platforms and with the Commission.
In particular, the discussion will focus on results achieved so far, constraints and chal enges
faced by online platforms, as well as opportunities notably with regards to technologies and
development of collective action to strengthen efforts to combat il egal content.
More precisely, the objectives of the meeting are to:
Inform the online platforms about EU’s policy on tacking il egal content
Gather input from online platforms on their actions and achievement to address
the spread of il egal content online
: corporate objectives, process and tools developed
including for proactive detection and removal of illegal content, indicators developed to
assess the evolution of the spread of il egal content;
Assess the commitment and ongoing actions from platforms to achieving European
policy objectives and discuss next steps.
• What actions and commitments have you taken to fight il egal content?
• What impacts did these actions have on the spreading of il egal content on your
• How can proactive measures and technologies lead to better results?
• What are you doing to develop tools in coordination with other platforms to fight
il egal content?
Online platforms are also invited to send us policy briefs / factsheets on their policy on
il egal content. These papers could be made available in the room or maintained
confidential, as requested by the platform.
Annex: Meeting agenda