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Google, Facebook to face hefty fines over failure to comply with new EU law

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Google, Twitter and Facebook have taken monumental steps to remove extremist content from their platforms. To hedge their bets, the European Commission is set to propose a tough law giving tech companies an hour to take down radical material or face fines.

In March, the European Commission gave internet companies three months to take down extremist content. The EU regulators, however, say very little is being done without the legislation forcing them to do so.

As per the proposed guidelines, ‘systematic failures’ to remove content within one hour would expose companies to a maximum penalty of 4% of their world-wide revenue for the prior year. For Facebook, it would be a maximum penalty of $1.63 billion for non-compliance. Google would face fines of up to $4.3 billion for failure to remove ‘evidently unlawful’ material.

“One hour is the decisive time window when the greatest damage can take place,” said European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker during a speech Wednesday in the European Parliament.

Until now, the European Commission had asked for voluntary cooperation from tech companies to speed up their removal of online extremist content. In January alone, nearly 7,000 new pieces of terror propaganda spread online from extremist groups.

The proposal calls for ‘legally binding one-hour deadline’ for internet companies to remove extremist content once national authorities order them to do so.

Mark Zuckerberg Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg kicked off F8 2015 and highlighted three themes: Putting people first, giving people more options to connect through the Facebook family of apps, and previewing the future of sharing.

Critics believe the new bill is effectively flawed and could result in radical groups migrating towards smaller, encrypted platforms such as messing app Telegram.

Political pressure on internet companies has been rising from the European Commission lately. This has resulted in internet giants taking steps to crack down on extremist content. In April, YouTube said it had invested in machine learning which automatically removes 90 percent of the extremist material. Twitter said its spam-fighting tool has helped suspend roughly 250,000 terrorist-linked accounts in the last six months of 2017. In the first quarter of 2018, Facebook removed or added a warning to 1.9 million pieces of radical content, 99 percent of which was removed before being reported by a user.

Internet companies also have a shared database of terror content that they can use to prevent the same malicious content being uploaded over and over again. Towards the end of 2018, the database will have accumulated more than 100,000 entries.

The European Commission has also called on internet companies, member states and Europol to increase their cooperation by ensuring that a point of contact at each entity is reachable 24/7.

The proposal is awaiting approval from EU’s member states and the European Parliament before it becomes law.

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