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EU considers fines for tech companies that don’t remove terrorist content within an hour

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Legislation reportedly being drafted would be the harshest yet

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

The European Union is considering tough new laws that would force tech companies like Facebook and YouTube to delete terrorist propaganda from their platforms within 60 minutes or face fines. The Financial Times reports that the legislation is currently being drafted by EU lawmakers who have lost patience with firms’ inability to police their sites.

Speaking to the FT, the EU’s commissioner for security, Julian King, said that Brussels had “not seen enough progress” on this issue, and was willing to take “stronger action in order to better protect our citizens.” King said, “We cannot afford to relax or become complacent in the face of such a shadowy and destructive phenomenon.”

Legislation on the issue was passed in March, complete with the same 60-minute window for companies to delete terrorist content after it has been flagged. However, these were only voluntary guidelines, and the legislation currently being discussed would likely include the threat of fines for firms that don’t meet this target.

Keeping online platforms clear of terrorist content has become a top priority for European governments after a string of attacks rocked Paris, London, and Berlin in recent years. Although US companies have responded with increased automated and human-led moderation, these efforts still can’t hope to comprehensively police sites where billions of users upload new content every day. What the EU wants is faster response times.

The problem of moderation will be tougher for companies without the resources of big tech firms. King told the FT that the legislation would cover all sites, regardless of size. This might end up impacting smaller companies unfairly, but King says this blanket rule is needed to make sure that infringing content isn’t just pushed to smaller platforms.

“The difference in size and resources means platforms have differing capabilities to act against terrorist content and their policies for doing so are not always transparent,” said King. “All this leads to such content continuing to proliferate across the internet, reappearing once deleted and spreading from platform to platform.”

Any legislation, after being announced in full, would need to be approved by both the European Parliament and a majority of EU states.