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Europe to punish sites for not removing ‘illegal content’ within …

In March of this year, the European Commission (EC) created guidelines and recommendations for the removal of “illegal content” (primarily terrorist propaganda) from websites within Europe. At the time, the rules were voluntary; now the EC is going to impose fines if publishers and tech companies fail to comply.

Yesterday, the Financial Times reported that regulations will be published next month for review. The mandatory rules would require the content in question to be removed within one hour following notification.

The EC is taking action because there hasn’t been sufficient voluntary action and progress, according to Julian King, EU commissioner for security, who is quoted in the report. Here, “illegal content” is broadly defined to include “terrorist content, incitement to hatred and violence, child sexual abuse material, counterfeit products and copyright infringement.”

Copyright infringement is an area of enforcement that could turn out to be highly problematic and have a negative impact on speech. Europe has no “fair use” defense to claims of copyright infringement, and the new rules could potentially chill satire and political criticism.

Still to be worked out: what constitutes notice and what the financial penalties would be. And who gets to interpret whether the content violates the rules?

The draft regulations would need to be approved by the European Parliament and then a majority of EU member states. They would reportedly apply to all websites regardless of their size or traffic.

About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog, Screenwerk, about connecting the dots between digital media and real-world consumer behavior. He is also VP of Strategy and Insights for the Local Search Association. Follow him on Twitter or find him at Google+.

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