This year, the European Union’s policy against terrorist content formally came into force. Giving states the power to inform platforms and demand removal subject to a strict one-hour window, the rules promise to be a step against the spread of extremism across the virtual medium. In cases where a platform does not take heed of the warnings, states can issue sanctions and turn to penalties as well. All platforms operating within the region have been given a year’s time to modify their structural systems and evolve to meet the new norms.
In December of last year, when the rules were first formulated, Margaritis Schinas went on to say that this “will provide a clear legal framework that sets out the responsibilities for Member States and service providers”. Schinas added that the rules were crucial in preventing attacks in the future. The expectations from EU’s Security Union is indeed, as displayed in Schinas’ words, high.
The rules do transcend beyond national borders, treating all countries that come within the EU in equal footing when it comes to tackling platforms’ content that could be extremist by nature. The norms provide scope for reinstating content that may have been removed by mistake. This mechanism is much needed given the abstractions normally observed when it comes to defining extremism and treating the issue. Albeit counter-productive in some respect, it provides hope that there is cognizance of errors. All of these developments had pre-cursors in the Security Union Strategy that was released by the European Commission. Farther beyond, the roots of the legislation lie in the 2018 proposal that was tabled in the Commission. The process of negotiation and consensus-building continued between these periods, finally culminating in these rules now coming into force.
Despite the good intent and aim, as with all things, this too has a double-edged demeanour. The faint line between intrusive surveillance and rightful intervention could prove to be tricky. As mentioned earlier, the abstract conception of extremism as such makes the subject of virtual surveillance a debilitating one at times. When the perception is marred by blacks and whites, there is no flexibility in accepting the fact that extremism isn’t something that exists only on a particular side of the spectrum. By terrorist content and extremist virtual presence, the EU must also mean the right-wing violence. Without bringing this under the ambit of such definition, the purpose of the rules will remain unachieved.
It is also important to note that rules for platforms alone won’t do the job. The stretch of extremist networks that lie beyond virtual domains must also be given due attention and therefore, be subjected to strict censoring and action. By celebrating this singular step as the ultimate jump that security needed, one would only be dim-wittedly turning a blind eye to the various factors that work into fuelling extremism. Without analysing the larger picture at hand, effectiveness is bound to be dissatisfactory. Whether the laws cover all parts of the internet and world-wide-web is yet another significant question.
The European Union must, alongside such legislations, take into account all the reasons and determinants that pave the way for extremism. A half-baked solution may seem solid for a temporary stream of time. But, in the long run, such veiled blinks in legislation can have a devastating effect – having prolonged the evident end, the effects would then demand a far more complicated quest for solutions. It’s better to act comprehensively now, than stall for better action later.
About Olivium Research Center
Olivium is an independent platform working on the theme of peace, a major theme at a time when the world forces are radically changing and main future challenges awaiting. At Olivium, we are aiming at focusing on any aspect (whether it be political, economic, environmental, societal, social, cultural) in all its forms, that could put peace at stake internationally, with a main focus on the Middle East and Europe, two neighboring regions currently facing instability. Olivium is a joint collaboration of thinkers, researchers, journalists but also volunteers willing to collaborate, share their thoughts/findings and propose a serious alternative to mainstream media.