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One hour rule

There’s been some bad news today, mostly related to the EU Copyritght Reform (articles 11 - link tax, and 13 - upload filters). If that wasn’t enough, there’s more: the one hour rule.

So we might get a new law that would enforce content removal too quick to be done with appropriate care and thought. Let’s take a look at the statement:

[…] the Commission is proposing a legally binding one-hour deadline for content to be removed following a removal order from national competent authorities

One hour is expected to be enough to:

A few questions, just the most obvious ones: who gets to decide whether content is terrorist or not? Who is responsible for classifying it? Is it done proactively by a group of internet detectives? How are power abuses going to be handled? Is the content always going to be removed selectively, or – to meet the deadline – the quick and dirty way, with anything around it?

But then it gets even better:

A clear definition of terrorist content

I can’t even imagine how anybody could think that we can have a clear definition of something like that. There’ll always be some different perspectives and no definition is going to be 100% clear. None will save us from false positives.

Strong safeguards: Content providers will be able to rely on effective complaint mechanisms that all service providers will have to put in place. Where content has been removed unjustifiably, the service provider will be required to reinstate it as soon as possible.

This is of course unfair: the authorities have one hour to get our content off-line, but when it is decided that the content was classified as terrorist by mistake, there’s no clear deadline for them to bring it back.

Increased transparency and accountability: Transparency and oversight will be guaranteed with annual transparency reports required from service providers and Member States

Annual reports? Having a report once per year means they’re going to have only numbers, with no measures to fix errors in the processes behing them. This also means that improving anything in those processes will take years, because of the huge delay between action and its evaluation.

All this makes me really worried about the future of the internet. And I hope we can still do something to avoid the tragedy that this one-hour-rule could lead to.

This work by Piotr Mieszkowski is licensed under CC-BY-SA 4.0