How should hosting providers respond to illegal content asks EU

A European Commission public consultation asks for advice in dealing with illegal online content

European authorities are asking the public for ideas on how to deal with illegal content on the Internet.

The European Commission announced the public consultation "on procedures for notifying and acting on illegal content hosted by online intermediaries" on Monday.

Online intermediaries include social networks, e-commerce platforms and hosting companies. The Commission wants to clamp down on racist content, child abuse material and so-called 'phishing' websites .

Under the eCommerce Directive, a hosting service provider must act when notified of alleged illegal content, however, the procedure for dealing with such situations is not regulated in detail.

In the past, stakeholders have called for a quicker take-down of illegal content, better respect for fundamental rights (in particular the freedom of expression) and increased legal certainty for online intermediaries. The Commission now wants comments and suggestions on how this can best be achieved.

The consultation includes a questionnaire with questions such as: How can unjustified notifications be best prevented? Should hosting service providers consult the providers of alleged illegal content? And should all hosting service providers have a procedure in place which allows them to be notified of illegal content that they may be hosting?

European digital rights group EDRi welcomed the move. "The Commission has made it clear that this is not about using "self-regulation" to privatize enforcement of either civil or criminal law online. So far, the Commission has been inclusive and focused on efficient procedures -- a step away from the "wild west" of law enforcement by Internet providers that we see at the moment," said EDRi coordinator Joe McNamee.

The deadline for sending contributions is Sept. 3. The public consultation is available at the Commission website.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

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Jennifer Baker

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