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European internet-policing initiative calls for 'flag this as terrorism' option in browsers

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clean it (official)
clean it (official)

The European Commission-funded Clean IT Project is wrapping up its two-year, €400,000 ($428,000) inquiry into how to suppress terrorism on the internet this week, and while it’s dropped some of its more outlandish suggestions, its final 30-page report could still have serious implications for free speech if it were adopted. Ars Technica reports that the committee would seek to empower users to flag terrorist content online through a "browser-based reporting mechanism" — AKA a built-in "flag this as terrorism" option.

May or may not be in breach of the Union and international law

Clean IT is an extension of a similar voluntary project aimed at tackling "illegal online content," but has been refocused with the marginally less-nebulous aim of "reducing the impact of the terrorist use of internet." The project has been roundly criticized, both by independent reviewers and privacy groups like European Digital Rights for everything from its high costs and lack of clear goals, to its legal overreach and the resulting threats to free speech. EDRi has called it "a project that seeks to use unspecified industry participants to solve unidentified problems in ways which may or may not be in breach of the Union and international law."

It's hard to imagine that Clean IT's recommendations will be mandated in privacy-loving Europe, but the US's own close call with SOPA and massively-unpopular reforms to Japan's copyright law illustrate just how easy it is for wide-reaching policy to get fast-tracked when it revolves around technology. The project's report, entitled Reducing terrorist use of the internet, will be the focus of its final symposium on Wednesday in Brussels.