European Federation of Journalists

The European Commission will not legislate on illegal content online

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) welcomes Commissioner Jourova’s decision not to initiate  EU-wide legislation to fine internet companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Microsoft, for failing to take down hate speech.

“We would like to see the laws we have in place offline enforced also online”, EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova said on Thursday 28 September during a press conference. Instead, the Commission proposes a guidance to internet companies about how they improve their record by complying with a voluntary code of conduct created last year and so far adopted by Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. “Our key challenge now will be to ensure that we carefully monitor the implementation in order to assess the need for further regulatory action. (…) If those tech companies do not deliver and take their responsibility seriously, we will come with action of regulatory character”, she added.

In its Communication Tackling Illegal Content Online: Towards an enhanced responsibility of online platforms published yesterday, the Commission reaffirms that its guidelines “seek to address concerns in relation to removal of legal content, sometimes called ‘over-removal’, which in turn impacts freedom of expression and media pluralism.”

However, the European Federation of Journalists regrets that the text does not mention self-regulation and media literacy as part of the solution. Any guidance to social networks on respecting the right to freedom of expression would also be welcomed. Putting into the hands of private companies the responsibility to decide what is illegal content is dangerous. The EFJ had warned about the so-called “privatisation of censorship” following the adoption of the Network Enforcement Law („Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz”) in Germany.

In addition, Vera Jourova announced today in Belgian daily newspaper “Le Soir” that the Commission will not take a stance on whistleblowers protection by the end of the year 2017, as it was foreseen. The EFJ reiterates its call for an EU-wide legislation and encourage any individuals and organisations to sign the petition.

Credit photo: European Union , 2017.