Terrorist content must be taken down within one hour

Karel Reisenbuk
, reporter
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Photo: Stringer / Reuters / Scanpix

Even though terrorism threat level remains low in Estonia, terrorist propaganda posts have made their way onto Estonian sites. To combat this kind of content, the European Commission wants to pass regulation that would order administrators to remove potentially dangerous posts within one hour. Estonia voiced support for the initiative last week.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs finds that the regulation is sorely needed in Europe as recent studies suggest radicalization has largely moved to the internet. The ministry makes no secret of the fact Estonia has seen beginnings of terrorist posts that have luckily not merited a lot of public attention. So far, this activity has been limited to sharing of propaganda materials on forums and websites either unknowingly or out of curiosity.

The global nature of the problem means it needs to be addressed on the international level. Europol counts 10,500 web hosting service providers in Europe more than 150 of which have had problems with terrorist content. Google claims it removed over 150,000 videos tied to violent extremism from YouTube between June and December 2017 and has closed more than 30,000 accounts to combat the phenomenon.

The regulation would obligate web hosting companies to make sure their services are not used for dissemination of terrorist materials and take measures to remove such content. While the exact nature of the regulation is a work in progress, the procedure would see a capable law enforcement organ (likely the Internal Security Service in Estonia) put in charge of monitoring content and control actions for its removal. Failure to comply would carry a penalty that has been suggested at 4 percent of the service provider’s annual turnover.

The interior ministry’s deputy secretary general in charge of internal security, law enforcement and migration policy Raivo Küüt said the regulation will be an important measure in the fight against terrorism. “We know that Facebook alone has taken down around 2 million posts that include terrorist content in the first quarter of the year. The regulation in question governs the removal process of such posts in the EU,” Küüt explained. Because the EU regulation is directly applicable and mandatory, Küüt said it is important for Estonia to consider entrepreneurial freedom and freedom of speech when shaping its position as dissemination of information for educational, journalistic or scientific purposes must be protected.

Head of the EU and foreign relations department of the ministry Kristi Värk said that the regulation will likely not enter into force before summer of 2020 as the European Parliament and the Council of Europe will have to reach an agreement first.