The EU-27 on Tuesday gave the green light to the agreement reached last December between the institutions on new rules to force digital platforms such as Facebook and YouTube to remove terrorist content from their sites within one hour to prevent its further dissemination through the network.

The new rules will apply to all internet companies offering their services in the EU, regardless of where the platform’s legal seat is located or its size, and provide a detailed definition of what constitutes “terrorist content”.

Negotiators from the Council and the European Parliament finalised the details of the pact at the end of last year and after formal adoption by the EU-27, only the final approval by the European Parliament at a forthcoming plenary session is needed for the new rules to be ratified and enter into force.

The new rules will allow the authorities of a Member State to order platforms to remove content used as advertising or to disable access to it from any EU country.

Online providers will have a maximum of one hour to comply with the order and it will be up to member states to set the framework for sanctions in cases of non-compliance, although they will be responsible for ensuring that platforms follow the instructions and will therefore be held accountable for their compliance.

Furthermore, platforms will have to take specific measures to prevent the misuse of their services and protect their networks from being used as channels for disseminating illegal content, although it will be up to these companies to decide what measures they put in place to comply with this obligation.

The rule also provides safeguards to prevent abuse, including a complaint mechanism so that content that has been blocked or removed in error can be reinstated as soon as possible.

“The dissemination of (messages) of radicalisation and incitement to violence through social media or the live broadcasting of attacks is becoming more and more frequent. With the new rules, we will have effective instruments to deal with this threat,” said Portugal’s interior minister, Eduardo Cabrita, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU for this six-month period.

“We send a strong message to internet companies: It is time for faster and more effective action,” Cabrita concluded in a statement released after the EU-27 decision.

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