On 25 November 2015, the European Parliament is expected to vote on a controversial but important political statement, aimed at preventing terrorist radicalisation and the recruitment of EU citizens by terrorist organisations.
Since June 2015, EDRi has been working hard with politicians and advisers to improve this timely political statement. Our objective has been to ensure that citizens’ online rights are upheld when adopting measures in the fight against terror. Accordingly, EDRi proposed amendments to the draft Report, analysed the amendments tabled, commented on every draft of the compromise amendments proposed by the parliamentarian responsible, the rapporteur Rachida Dati (EPP, France), had regular contact with the rapporteur’s assistant as well as the shadow rapporteurs from the other political groups, and created public awareness by publishing several blog posts and by communicating the developments via social media.
While the forthcoming Resolution covers a wide range of aspects related to for example education, prisons, or immigration, EDRi focused on the Internet-related provisions. In this regard, we managed to resolve many of the problems of the initial draft in the Civil Liberties Committee vote on 19 October 2015.
Now, the whole European Parliament has the opportunity to fix three main issues related to the role of Internet companies and their responsibility when dealing with illegal content, companies’ involvement in counter-terrorist narratives, and the EU Passenger Name Records (PNR) Directive.
First, there is one paragraph of the Draft Resolution which refers to Internet companies’ liability in relation to illegal content. Currently, hosting providers must act expeditiously to delete or disable access to illegal content online. However, the current Draft Resolution asks for companies to be held criminally liable if they fail to act, even if only in response to an “administrative request” and not a court order. After many years of experience, EDRi has never seen any evidence suggesting that there are companies active in Europe whose fail to act to address illegal terrorist content could be considered to amount to a criminal act in its own right. The criminalisation of internet companies to address a problem that does not exist brings no benefits, but supporting this measure, even in principle, sets a terrible international precedent. As a result, we strongly prefer deletion of the criminal related part. If politicians insist to keep it, enough safeguards must be put in place.
Secondly, the draft resolution also says that companies, civil society organisations and Member States should manipulate online speech as a mechanism for preventing radicalisation and hate speech. EDRi believes it would be very dangerous to promote any such manipulation. This risks being counterproductive, contrary to democracy, and its values and has worrying echos of state-sponsored “troll armies” in jurisdictions with weak democratic values.
Thirdly, the draft Resolution affirms the intention to finalise the EU PNR Directive by the end of 2015. As many independent researchers, the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) and other important authorities have stated, PNR is neither a necessary nor proportionate measure, and implementing it would not solve the problem of terrorism; it would contribute to profiling innocent people, and not just terrorist suspects. However, even the simple fact that the PNR directive procedurally cannot be finished by the end of the year, isn’t a barrier to the Resolution saying that this will happen.
In sum, EDRi welcomes the efforts of the politicians throughout the elaboration of this Draft Resolution, and trust parliamentarians to fix the remaining problems. If this is done, the Parliament will be sending a clear and legally tenable message: Europe will remain united and will not renounce democracy or citizens’ fundamental rights and freedoms.
Draft Report on the prevention of radicalisation and recruitment of European citizens by terrorist organisations, “Dati’s Draft Report” (01.06.2015)
EDRi: Proposal for amendments to Dati’s Draft Report (22.06.2015)
EDRi: Analysis of the Amendments to Dati’s Draft Report (03.09.2015)
EDRi: Problems with translations of Dati’s Draft Report (03.09.2015)
EDRi: Comments to the draft Compromise Amendments to Dati’s Draft Report (21.09.2015)
EDRi: Comments to the draft Compromise Amendments(v4) to Dati’s Draft Report (05.10.2015)
EDRi-gram: EP Committee adopts short-sighted anti-”radicalisation” report (21.10.2015)
Report on the prevention of radicalisation and recruitment of European citizens by terrorist organisations (03.11.2015)
EDRi: Proposal for plenary amendments to Dati’s Report (17.11.2015)
(Contribution by Maryant Fernández Pérez, EDRi)