Paris (CNSNews.com) – Giant Internet companies could face large fines if they do not quickly remove online material that promotes terrorism and extremism, under a new joint plan announced by the British and French governments.
French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May announced the proposals during a visit by May to Paris this week.
The campaign will create a new legal liability for Internet providers, tech and social media companies, with the two countries developing new laws to punish operators if they do not remove radical content from their platforms.
In France, Internet service providers (ISPs) are already expected to remove any content that advocates or propagates hate or terrorism, but the process is a bureaucratic and sometimes slow one, and some tech companies are seen to be dragging their feet in complying.
Macron and May hope the new plan, by making ISPs and social media platforms legally responsible and liable to large fines, will make the process faster and more effective.
“This initiative aims first to strengthen the commitments and obligations of online operators to remove content that promotes hate and terrorism,” said Macron. He added that operators have made positive commitments in the past to take down such content but those are not enough.
“We are launching a Franco-British campaign to ensure that the Internet is not a secure space for terrorists and criminals,” said May. “It cannot host content that results in so much suffering.”
In response to the announcement, Google UK said. “We never want terrorists to have a voice, or spread extremist material on our services and we take our role in tackling extremism online very seriously.”
“We employ thousands of people and invest hundreds of millions of pounds to fight abuse on our platform, in partnership with governments, law enforcement and NGOs,” it said.
“Terrorist content has no place on Twitter,” said the company’s head of public policy in the U.K., Nick Pickles.
“We continue to expand the use of technology as part of a systematic approach to removing this type of content,” he said. “We will never stop working to stay one step ahead and will continue to engage with our partners across industry, government, civil society and academia.”
Dan Shefet, a French lawyer specializing in international law, intellectual property, IT and competition laws, said May and Macron appear to be moving in the direction of an initiative proposed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel two months ago aiming at fighting radicalization online. The German proposal would entail fines of up to 50 million euro ($55.7 million) for defaulters.
“I also think that the two countries, along with Germany, would like to become more independent from the United States in their laws on the Internet, and to have providers of all types made responsible for the contents they publish,” he said.
Shefet added that technologies to take down such contents are available, and by passing new laws Europe would be able to fight more efficiently against online terrorism and extremist content.
France and Britain have both been targeted by terrorists in recent years, and experts believe a number of Islamist terrorists, there and elsewhere, have been radicalized through the Internet.
Britain and France intelligence have long cooperated well, said May, but she and Macron have agreed to do more to tackle online terrorism.
One of Macron’s promises during the presidential campaign was to fight efficiently against terrorism and to make France more secure.
Last week he created a task force answering directly to him that will track potential terrorists on French soil.
He has also indicated that he will seek parliamentary approval in the fall to have some of the measures already in place under a state of emergency became part of regular law.
These include the right of security agencies to search any premises, 24 hours a day and seven days a week. Also, a person suspected of preparing a terrorist attack will be liable for house arrest, even without the issuing of a warrant by a judge.