Richard Nash, Secretary-General of EuroISPA, writes with an update on the EU’s position on “terrorist websites”.
Several of you have asked about quotes attributed to EU Commissioner Frattini on the subject of blocking, in relation to “terrorist” websites. The quotes have suggested the Commissioner will shortly introduce measures to oblige ISPs or search engines (or both, depending on the article you’ve seen) to block access to specific websites or search terms.
Further to information relayed in recent Council/Forum meetings, I obtained a full update from the Commission about this, as follows:
- the work in question relates to proposals for amendments to the EU Framework Decision on Counter-Terrorism. These will be published next month.
- As many of you will be aware, EuroISPA has been very active in discussions with the Commission concerning the preparation of the new proposals. We submitted a long paper to the European Commission earlier this year (see attached) in response to a closed consultation of certain stakeholder groups. We have also spoken with DG Internal Market a number of times about this, as they have been involved in discussions with DG JLS (the DG leading this initiative) on avoiding any impact on the e-Commerce Directive.
- What we understand is that the forthcoming proposals will NOT seek to introduce any specific measures on blocking. In this respect, Commissioner Frattini’s remarks are not consistent with the Commission’s actual policy.
- The Commission will specify that the Internet may be used as a tool for inciting, aiding or abetting terrorist offences. However, the proposals will state that there must be criminal intent for this to be an offence. In other words, the Commission wishes to exclude academic research and Internet intermediaries from the scope or any liability concerns.
- At the same time, the Commission will not denounce blocking as a potential tool for addressing content hosted outside the EU. Member States would not accept this.
- The Commission will launch a study to look at ways to address content that promotes terrorism or instructs how to manufacture explosives. We understand this will be a legal study.
Conclusion: we don’t expect the proposals in November to make any sweeping statements of support for blocking, etc. However, this certainly won’t be the end of the debate and EuroISPA will be expected to continue to discuss these issues with the Commission. From talking to the Commission, it’s apparent we have done a pretty good job of conveying a reasonable and constructive position and informing them about the technologies used for blocking (together with their limitations and knock-on effects, etc). However, there remains much political pressure on DG JLS to continue developing policy in this area and we’ll need to stay on top of the issue.
I hope that clarifies at least some aspects of what you’ve seen in the press, etc. We’ll report on the proposals once they’ve been published.