Google and Facebook have, since 2016, faced increasing scrutiny over what gets taken down and what doesn’t, especially with terrorism. But despite social media working harder to shut down terrorists, for the EU it’s still not enough. The league of nations is implementing new guidelines that require both Google and Facebook to remove any posts flagged by law enforcement within one hour (according to the Wall Street Journal) after they receive that flag. But some warn that puts free expression at risk.
The Daily Beast reports the EU’s guidelines are voluntary, at least for now. To this point, Facebook and Google have largely been left to their own devices to comply with EU law enforcement requests. What several EU governments would really like would be the capability to sue Facebook and Google over what users put on their platforms, but for now they’ll settle for having law enforcement yank down any “terroristic” posts within an hour of their being marked.
The problem, of course, is who defines what as terrorism. Spain’s government could decide anything referring to the Catalonian independence movement is “terror content,” for example, and force Facebook to take it down. While some of these judgment calls are simple enough, others may be more complex, and any appeals process Facebook and Google might use would potentially embarrass EU member states by highlighting things they’d rather not talk about. Or, of course, websites could just decide they don’t care and not vet the requests, essentially giving law enforcement control over social media. The EU will need to ensure its members define terrorism narrowly enough that free speech is protected, or it may wind up with a whole new problem on its hands.