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Google, Facebook face huge fines over the terror and propaganda

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The European Union proposes huge fines for online providers that are not fast enough in removing terrorist content from their services, increasing the pressure on the big tech companies like Facebook and Google, which backed a voluntary approach.

The bloc’s executive arm Wednesday proposed new legislation would be the creation of a legal obligation for an online service for the removal of terrorist content within an hour of being notified of their presence and to install automated systems to prevent that deleted content from popping up again.

In March, the EU has set new guidelines in order more quickly to remove the content with the explicit threat of the introduction of the legislation or the actions were not fast enough.

“Systematic errors” in order for content to be removed within an hour would expose companies to fines up to a maximum of 4% of the worldwide turnover for the previous year, according to the proposal. For the Alphabet that would be a maximum of $4.43 billion and for Facebook would be $1.63 billion.

“An hour is the decisive time window, when the greatest damage can occur,” said President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker during a speech Wednesday in the European Parliament.

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The proposal requires approval from the EU parliament and the member states to become law.

The imposition of obligations and heavy fines is a stark new approach to the EU, which is under pressure from the member states to act. Until now, the EU has asked for a voluntary cooperation of tech companies to speed up their removal of terrorist content from their services.

Tech companies said Wednesday that they support the EU’s goal of quickly removing terrorist content from their services. Google and Facebook both said that they have invested a lot in the use of artificial intelligence tools to flag possible terrorist content, and sometimes to remove it automatically, in particular in the case of content that you have previously removed.

Google says that the automated tools flag violent extremist YouTube videos so fast, that more than half of those that are removed in the first quarter had been seen less than 10 times. Facebook last autumn, said that 99% of the material removed from the Islamic State, al-Qaeda is blocked before it is seen by other users.

The EU said in January that the big tech companies that were part of the voluntary code of conduct companies had removed 70% of the content notified by the European authorities within 24 hours, against only 28% in mid-2016.

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But the political pressure has increased from EU-member states such as the united kingdom, France, and Italy, to move faster and to ensure smaller tech platforms are required.

EU officials also want to get ahead of plans in some countries in the implementation of their own rules to hold tech companies responsible. Already, Germany requires social media companies like Facebook and Twitter to remove illegal content, ranging from defamation to terrorist content or face a fine of up to €50 million.

Separately, the eu’s executive arm made another bill Wednesday to improve the safety of the elections, foreign intervention, and online manipulation. The new rules should political parties and organizations liable for fines of up to 5% of their annual budget, if they are found in violation of EU privacy laws in an attempt to influence the outcome of the EU elections.

 

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