Deal against online terror content includes measures to remove offensive material in an hour

'Terrorists have it harder and our message is clear: we will protect our societies and freedoms'

A French national flag is flown on top of the Grand Mosque of Paris, in Paris on November 27, 2015  in memory of the 130 victims of the November 13, 2015 coordinated terror attacks in Paris claimed by the Islamic State group (IS). A solemn ceremony was held for the victims of the Paris attacks, with President Francois Hollande vowing that France would respond to the "army of fanatics" with more songs, concerts and shows. "We will not give in either to fear or to hate," said Hollande in the courtyard of the Invalides buildings in central Paris, speaking to 2,000 dignitaries and those injured in the violence. (Photo by PATRICK KOVARIK / AFP)

EU member states have reached a provisional deal to take down online terror content within an hour of it being posted.

The agreement was announced as EU leaders gathered in Brussels for a two-day summit where they are set to discuss cross-border police co-ordination after recent extremist attacks in France and Austria.

“The EU is working to stop terrorists from using the internet to radicalise, recruit and incite to violence,” the European Council.

It said the proposed rules would apply to providers operating across the bloc, “whether or not they have their main establishment in the member states".

This deal includes an obligation for internet platforms to adopt measures that fight terrorist content and recruitment.

"Today's agreement sends a strong message to the anti-democratic powers trying to divide us: there shall be no more loopholes for terrorists on the internet," said Renew Europe, one of the EU groups trying to reach an agreement.

"The internet has unfortunately become a perfect space for promoting hate messages and inciting violent radicalisation,” said Maite Pagazaurtundua, a Member of the European Parliament who is also Renew Europe’s negotiator on the Terrorist Content Online regulation.

“We have been working hard for two years to ensure that institutions and citizens have the necessary tools to make terrorist content online disappear quickly, while ensuring users' freedom of expression is guaranteed by removing only illegal content without overreaching or discretion.

“Terrorists have it harder and our message is clear: we will protect our societies and freedoms."

Under the agreement, national authorities will be entitled to order platforms to remove content or disable access to it in all 27 member states.

Providers will be forced to act but will remain free to decide how they take down the banned material.

“This includes effective remedies for users whose content has been removed and for service providers to submit a complaint,” the council said.

VIENNA, AUSTRIA - NOVEMBER 05: People light candles at a makeshift memorial at the scene of a terror attack last Monday in which a gunman shot a number of people, on November 05, 2020 in Vienna, Austria. Kujtim Fejzulai, a 20-year-old with Austrian and North Macedonian citizenship who had been radicalized by Islamic extremism, killed four people and injured 23 others before being shot dead by police. (Photo by Thomas Kronsteiner/Getty Images)

The proposed regulation still needs to be formally approved by the EU Parliament and EU ministers.

The agreement was announced a day after the EU’s executive branch urged member states and legslators to quickly adopt the proposal.

Since the deadly Paris attacks five years ago, in which fighters who had returned from Syria were involved, the EU has been repeatedly hit by extremist actions.

In 2019, seven terrorist attacks were carried out in the EU, and twice that number of plots were thwarted by law enforcement.

This year, the attacks in France and Austria, in which eight people died, have been the most high profile.

They included the beheading of teacher Samuel Paty near his Paris school in October, in an attack that outraged Europe and the world.

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