Terrorist Content Online is hot in the Parliament and is taking a worrying turn, Online Content Moderation is THE topic in national capitals and Brussels is trying to stop them with its own effort. A Data Data Strategy, which includes open data) is to be written and the Commission is asking for input. 

This and previous reports on Meta-Wiki:



As we wrote in the last report the Commission has unveiled its Digital Working Programme. [1] More and more details are coming to light, including that it will look in a specific Data Strategy which will contain a review of the Database Directive. A solid focus will be put on Content Moderation online via the Digital Services Act (see more below) and Artificial Intelligence. The so-called Gig Economy (think Takeaway, Foodpanda and Uber Eats) and Digital Tax issues will also be looked into. 



Preventing the dissemination of terrorist content online [2] fits the fancy new Digital Strategy perfectly, but is a leftover from the old Commission. This is why it is already at the trilogue stage of negotiations, where the EP and the Council are having a go at it. 


As high as the pressure on the participants is to get ready with some meat on the compromise bones for the 18 March trilogue, still there is no full draft of what a compromise could look like. Reportedly, the Shadows are gearing up to defend exceptions in the definition, notably keeping artistic purposes as exempted from its scope. Another important issue is to replace the forbidden - and very open to interpretation - "promoting" terrorist offenses with "inciting to", which at least gives a better guideline when the line between free speech and illegal activity may be crossed. We can't believe we are still discussing this, yet here we are. If you like to give us a helping hand by getting in touch with the shadow rapporteurs and telling your government to do the right thing and support sensible ideas of the European Parliament representatives, please show up. That way we can perhaps get it over with and move on to another can of worms. 


Content Moderation 


Germany & NetzDG2

The German federal government pushes for several amendments to the network enforcement act (Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz, a.k.a. NetzDG), which since its inception in 2017 establishes added compliance rules for social media platforms directed at German audiences. They have to check and delete postings that were reported as unlawful, with a focus on hate crime and protection of personality rights. Failing to comply within very short deadlines can lead to considerable fines, which is why NetzDG has been criticised as setting one-sided incentives towards deletion and overblocking. It also provides victims of potential hate crimes with better means to request user data of potential perpetrators from social network providers under judicial order. With the proposed amendments, a new duty would lie on the network providers to report postings to the Federal Police if "concrete evidence towards a criminal offence" of a certain type (e. g. death threats) is present and the posting is likely to have prolonged effect. For this, the criminal code is also to be amended accordingly. The means for victims and police are to be extended by including full data requests including account data such as passwords, if a judicial order says so. The latter point especially has led to widespread criticism, saying that the new rules would go too far. Several NGOs and groups (incl. WMDE) have signed an open letter warning against this continuing privatisation of law enforcement with potential grave consequences for freedom of speech, asking for better trained and equipped police and judiciary instead. Some further reading: [3][4][5]


France & Loi Anti Haine

Meanwhile in France the Senate has amended the proposed “anti hate speech law”. It removed the 24-hour deletion deadline and also deleted the one-hour deadline for terrorist material. The text will now go back to the National Assembly, which can override the Senate’s changes. Further reading: [6][7][8]


UK & Online Harms

Just as busy bureaucrats in Paris and Berlin are working on this, so are their counterparts in post-Brexit London. An “Online Harms” proposal is on its way that will have the telco regulator Ofcom rely on social media companies to decide what is and isn’t illegal content. There are worries about freedom of expression and balance of interests here that prompted Ofcom and Boris Johnson himself to publicly let it be known that the new rules shouldn’t harm online speech too much. Further Reading: [9][10][11]


Austria & Hate Speech Online

Another one on the online moderation bandwagon is Austria. The new government started talking of a “duty of investigation” on police and public prosecutors that would require them to initiate investigations independently from a legal action brought by the victims of online hate speech. Internet platforms should also be made more accountable for the deletion of illegal content. It is clear that Vienna is drawing on the experience of Berlin, but details are still very vague.  


Sweden & Online Liability

Stockholm welcomed Europe’s digital push but wanted the Commission to go further in platform content regulation. “The current EU rules of liability are not enough to remove and keep illegal material on the internet platforms. Owners’ responsibility to keep their platforms free of hatred, threats and other criminal content should be regulated by law,” said Anders Ygeman, Sweden’s minister for energy and digitisaion, according to Politico. 


EU & Digital Services Act

Meanwhile Brussels is trying hold back Germany, France and co. as much as possible until a European framework is on its way. The European Commission needs to first properly evaluate the 2000 E-Commerce Directive and has four policy options from then on:

1. Focus solely on enforcement of current rules. 

2. On top of stronger enforcement mechanisms establish stronger liability for platforms. 

3. Completely rewrite the current liability regime. 

4. Keep the current, national “country of origin” principle, but establish a EU-wide regulatory oversight system. 


Data Strategy

The European Commission has opened its consultation on a “European Strategy for Data”. [12] It looks like an attempt to pull all the different initiatives around access and re-use of data into one, somewhat more coherent, plan. The Database Directive is part of this topic and we will try to again bring up the issue of the so-called sui generis right on databases. The consultation deadline is 31 May and if you would like to collaborate with us, please get in touch!


Artificial Intelligence & Big Fat Brussels Meeting

Now that even the Vatican has shared its two cents on Artificial Intelligence [13], Wikimedia will need to have something coherent and constructive to say on this topic. Question include ethics and, of course, IP (what happens when the AI creates a new work?). We want to make this a topic of this year’s Big Fat Brussel’s meeting in the second half of March. [14]


As the current COVID-19 spread is having organisations, including Wikimedia, cancel events we are currently looking into the Brussels Meeting as well. We working on coming up with a plan of action and confirm or cancel the event by mid-week and will inform everyone accordingly.