Role of publishing platforms in tackling illegal content online needs clarified, says MEPs

Out-Law News | 07 Dec 2015 | 2:56 pm | 1 min. read

The role that publishing platforms have to play in combating cyber crime and the posting of illegal content on the internet needs to be clarified, a committee of MEPs has said.

The Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) called on the European Commission to "advance policies and a legal framework to tackle cyber crime and illegal content and materials on the internet, including hate speech".

The Commission's policies and legislative proposals must be "in full compliance with" the fundamental rights that underpin EU law, existing EU or national laws as well as "with the principles of necessity, proportionality, due legal process and the rule of law", it said.

To deliver that objective, the Commission needs to "clarify the role of intermediaries and online platforms with respect to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union", LIBE said.

The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union sets out the foundation rights and principles of EU law by which all laws in the EU must abide. Matters such as respect for privacy, freedom of expression and the right to effective remedy are enshrined in the Charter.

The Commission opened a consultation into "the economic role of online platforms" in September. The consultation, in part, looks at whether online platforms should be held responsible for the illegal activities of their users. The consultation closes on 30 December this year.

Under the EU's existing E-Commerce Directive, service providers are protected from liability for material that they neither create nor monitor but simply store or pass on to users of their service. The Directive says that service providers are generally not responsible for the activity of customers and that EU countries must not put service providers under any general obligation to police illegal activity on its service.

Service providers are not liable for infringement via their services if they do not have "actual knowledge" or an awareness of the illegal activity. In circumstances where they obtain such knowledge, providing a service provider "acts expeditiously to remove or to disable access to the information" they are not liable for that infringement.

In its newly published opinion (7-page / 192KB PDF), LIBE said new rules on data ownership and people's control over their personal data are required. It also said that moves to make systems for processing personal data interoperable must comply with EU data protection laws and backed the use of pseudonymisation and anonymisation measures to "enhance protection where personal data are used by big data applications and online service providers".

LIBE called for "improved cooperation in order to establish common, global standards for the data-driven economy", and said those standards "should prioritise security, respect for privacy and data protection".

The committee said that big data, cloud computing, the internet of things and research and innovation are "key to economic development" and need to be addressed coherently "throughout EU legislation".