The Commission has decided today to send letters of formal notice to 22 Member States - Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Ireland, Greece, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Finland and Sweden for failing to comply with certain obligations from the Regulation on the dissemination of terrorist content online, such as: the requirement to designate the authority or authorities responsible for issuing removal orders and notify the Commission of those authorities; to name a public contact point and to lay down the rules and measures on penalties in case of non-compliance with legal obligations.
The continued presence of terrorist content on the web is a serious risk to citizens and to society at large. Terrorists misuse the internet to spread their messages to intimidate, radicalise, recruit, and facilitate carrying out terrorist attacks. Recent terrorist attacks perpetrated on EU soil, such as the one carried out most recently in Bratislava on 12 October 2022, are strong reminders of how terrorist content online plays a role in the planning and carrying out such attacks. To tackle this threat, the European Commission has put forward a series of voluntary and legislative measures and initiatives to help mitigate the terrorist threat.
Addressing the dissemination of terrorist content online
The Terrorist Content Online Regulation (TCO Regulation) provides a legal framework to ensure that hosting service providers, that make users' content available to the public, address the misuse of their services for the dissemination of terrorist content online. The TCO Regulation applies as of 7 June 2022. Hosting service providers are obliged to remove terrorist content upon receiving a removal order from Member States' authorities within one hour and to take measures when their platforms are exposed to terrorist content.
The TCO Regulation applies to all hosting service providers offering services within the EU, which includes providers of social media, video, image and audio-sharing services. The Regulation requires specific measures from such providers that are exposed to terrorist content, provides for penalties for breaches and includes strong safeguards to protect fundamental rights, in particular freedom of expression and of information. It also contains clear requirements for user compensation as well as annual transparency reports by hosting service providers and national competent authorities.
The TCO Regulation requires Member States to appoint a responsible authority, doted with adequate powers and resources, including a contact point. Member States must ensure that penalties are available to address breaches by hosting service providers of their obligations under the TCO Regulation; financial penalties can go up to 4% of the hosting service provider's global turnover. Member States must communicate to the Commission the measures adopted to fulfil these obligations to designate responsible authorities and to provide for rules on penalties. In the absence of a strong enforcement framework, the objective of the TCO Regulation would be undermined. Today's decision intends to ensure that Member States concerned adapt their national rules as quickly as possible to the EU legislation.
The Member States concerned now have two months to respond and address the shortcomings raised by the Commission. In the absence of a satisfactory response, the Commission may decide to issue a reasoned opinion.
The Commission launched the EU Internet Forum in 2015 to strengthen voluntary cooperation between Member States and internet platforms. The Forum allows to exchange on the trends and evolution of terrorists' use of the internet as well as to tackle child sexual abuse online.
The commitment to fight terrorism, along with organised crime and cybercrime, was confirmed in the EU Security Union Strategy 2020-2025. The Counter-Terrorism Agenda, presented in December 2020, has also put an emphasis on prevention of radicalisation online and offline, including by putting forward a proposal for the TCO Regulation. This has resulted in the adoption of the TCO Regulation by the EU legislature on 29 April 2021.
To detect, investigate and address terrorist content on the internet, including on social media, the EU Internal Referral Unit (EU IRU) is developing an EU Platform on illicit content online (PERCI), a single system that connects all Member States for the facilitation of referrals and removal orders. All Member States have agreed to use this system to facilitate the implementation of the TCO Regulation. PERCI will allow for 24/7 coordination, information exchange in real time and facilitates transparency reporting on activities under the scope of the TCO Regulation.
For More Information
- Publication date
- 26 January 2023
- Representation in Cyprus