Illegal Content

The law is clear; what is illegal offline is illegal online. And a bevy of European laws – such as the directive on combating terrorism (2017) and the directive on combating the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography (2011) – have been promulgated over the years, requiring platforms to remove illegal content "expeditiously," in the words of the electronic commerce directive (2000), once they are notified or in some other way become aware of its existence.

A short list of offences covered by these rules includes incitement to terrorism, xenophobic hate speech with intent to incite, copyright infringement and child abuse. Few dispute the underlying principles at stake, but the debate grows heated over how – and how quickly – platforms should be legally bound to remove illegal material when it appears. How much redress do platform users have if they believe their content was removed unjustifiably? And how much duty do the platforms have to cooperate pro-actively with security and law enforcement services?

The European Commission has provided a handy framework: a communication on tackling illegal content online (2017) and a recommendation on measures to effectively tackle illegal content online (2018). These guidelines are non-binding, but – faced with a rise in phenomena like terrorism – some governments have stepped in with steeper, more binding rules. Germany is a case in point. Its Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz (NetzDG), threatens large fines if "manifestly unlawful" material does not disappear from platforms within 24 hours of notification. France’s proposed Loi contre les contenus haineux sur Internet (the "Avia law," named for sponsor Laetitia Avia), would do the same.

Put simply, the discussion boils down to several simple determinations: is illegal content coming down quickly enough? Are the rules and codes of conduct strong enough to prevent damage from occurring given the speed with which harm can take place? Is the volume of illegal content decreasing given the measures already in place, and is it decreasing quickly enough? And if stronger measures are needed, how can they be constructed to obtain better results without violating important rights such as privacy, redress and free speech?

The evidence presented in this section cover illegal content broadly. Separate sections will deal with more concrete aspects, such as incitement to terrorism, hate speech and copyright infringement. Additional information on illegal content online can be found on the World Intermediary Liability Map (WILMap), led by the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School.

Records 1 - 10 of 35


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Acquired or Accessed Any Content Type IIlegally (2017)

The chart shows the percent of respondents that use the internet who acquired or accessed any type of content illegaly over the past year. Respondents from Poland and Spain were the most likely to report having done so among European Union countries. European Union refers to EU28. The United Kingdom left the European Union on 31 January 2020. As a note, the data in the chart covers exclusively the streamripping and pirated copies on physical carriers.
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Action Taken After Encountering Illegal Content (2018)

The chart shows that the majority of users took not action after encountering illegal content online. The chart results are based on the answers to the question “Q4. What action did you take after encountering this content?", for which the selection of more than one answer is possible. European Union refers to EU28. The United Kingdom left the European Union on 31 January 2020.
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Action Taken After Encountering Illegal Content (By Country)

The chart shows that most users took not action after encountering illegal content online, although respondents from Germany were the least likely to report having taken no action. The chart results are based on the answers to the question: What action did you take after encountering this content?, " for which the selection of more than one answer is possible. European Union refers to EU28. The United Kingdom left the European Union on 31 January 2020.
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Content Removal Comparison: Google Community Guidelines vs. Germany’s Network Enforcement Act (2018)

The chart presents the distribution of posts removed by Google due to violations of Google's community guidelines and the Germany’s Network Enforcement Act, on the grounds for removal. The data shows that the majority of removal decisions are based on the platform’s private standards, as they often prioritise the compliance with their community guidelines, and not with German speech laws.
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Estimated Impact of the Internet Intermediary Liability Regime on Startups’ Success Rate in Germany (2015)

Germany’s startup ecosystem could moderately benefit from increased liability protection in particular to increase its startup success rate. The model used by Oxera estimates that it could increase by 1.6%, translating into an increase of around 9% on its current success rate.
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Estimated Impact of the Internet Intermediary Liability Regime on Startups’ Success Rate in Selected Countries (2015)

The chart presents an estimated impact on the success rate for startups in four selected countries – Chile, Germany, India and Thailand. The analysis suggests that a regime with clearly defined requirements for compliance and low associated compliance costs could increase startups’ success rates for intermediaries in the selected countries between 4% (Chile) and 24% (Thailand).
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Estimated Impact of the Internet Intermediary Liability Regime on Startups’ Success Rate in Selected Countries (2015)

The chart presents an estimated impact on expected profit for successful startups in four selected countries – Chile, Germany, India and Thailand. The analysis suggests that a regime with clearly defined requirements for compliance and low associated compliance costs could increase the startups’ expected profit for intermediaries in the focus countries between 1% (Chile) and 5% (India).
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Fourteen Years of Democratic Decline

The chart shows the evolution of the countries' Freedom of the World score for the past 15 years, based on a report from Freedom House. The results show that the global freedom has declined constantly in the last the 14 years. The gap between setbacks and gains widened compared with 2018, as individuals in 64 countries experienced deterioration in their political rights and civil liberties while those in just 37 experienced improvements. The negative pattern affected all regime types, but the impact was most visible near the top and the bottom of the scale.
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Global Rankings of the Level of Internet and Digital Media Freedom

Freedom on the Net measures the level of internet and digital media freedom in 65 countries (for a full display of countries, please view the chart in full screen). Each country receives a numerical score from 100 (the most free) to 0 (the least free), which serves as the basis for an internet freedom status designation of free (70–100 points), partly free (40–69 points) or not free (0–39 points). Ratings are determined through an examination of three broad categories: obstacles to access (assesses infrastructural and economic barriers to access; government efforts to block specific applications or technologies; and legal, regulatory, and ownership control over internet and mobile phone access providers); limits on content (examines filtering and blocking of websites; other forms of censorship and self-censorship; manipulation of content; the diversity of online news media; and usage of digital media for social and political activism); violations of user rights (measures legal protections and restrictions on online activity; surveillance; privacy; and repercussions for online activity, such as legal prosecution, imprisonment, physical attacks, or other forms of harassment).
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Government Requests Addressed to Google to Remove Content by Type of Reason (2018)

Governments contact Google with content removal requests for a number of reasons. Government bodies may claim that content violates a local law, and include court orders that are often not directed at Google with their requests. Both types of requests are counted in this report. Google also includes government requests to review content to determine if it violates Google's product community guidelines and content policies.