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 11 - 20 of 50


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Distribution of the Content Actioned on Instagram, by Reason of Removal

The chart shows the distribution of the content actioned on Instagram, by reasons of removal. The data shows that adult nudity and sexual activity remain the main reason of removal of content, followed by hate speech and violence and graphic content. In the last three quarters of 2020, the share of content actioned under hate speech violations increased significantly compared to previous periods (four times higher in the last quarter of 2020 compared to the last quarter of 2019).
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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 (2010-2020)

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.
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Human Detection of Illegal Content Online, by Flagging Reason (2017-2021)

The chart shows the distribution of the videos removed by Youtube based on human detection, by flagging reason. The data represents average shares of videos removed for the period October 2017-March 2021 and are calculated based on the trimestrial values included in the transparency report. The results show that the users' main flagging reason of videos is the spam, mislinding and scam content, followed by sexual content and hateful or abusive content. When flagging a video, human flaggers can select a reason they are reporting the video and leave comments or video timestamps for YouTube's reviewers. This chart shows the flagging reasons that people selected when reporting YouTube content. A single video may be flagged multiple times and may be flagged for different reasons. Reviewers evaluate flagged videos against all of the Community Guidelines and policies, regardless of why they were originally flagged. Flagging a video does not necessarily result in it being removed. Human flagged videos are removed for violations of Community Guidelines once a trained reviewer confirms a policy violation.
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Internet Economy as Percentage of Gross Domestic Product (2016)

This chart provides information on the share of the Internet economy within the gross domestic product for some selected countries. The data shows that Internet has created a tremendous amount of value for the economy globally, substantially impacting GDP in the selected countries.
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Internet Platform Funding Comparison: European Union and United States

This chart shows a funding gap in the European Union compared to the United States. The data refers to a 15-year time horizon, considering companies formed after 01 January 2000 up until the end of 2014. The results suggest that a US-based company, under the framework set forth by the Communications Decency Act, Section 230, is five times more likely to secure investment over $10 million and nearly 10 times more likely to receive investments over $100 million, as compared to internet companies in the European Union, under the more limited E-Commerce Directive. Therefore, the internet platform companies built under the Communications Decency Act, Section 230 regime are much more likely to receive the significant investment necessary to grow and succeed.