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.

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Human Detection of Illegal Content Online, by Flagging Reason (2017-2019)

The chart shows the percentage of videos removed by Youtube based on human detection, by flagging reason. The data represent an average of videos removed by Youtube for the period October 2017-December 2019, based on the trimestrial values provided in the transparency report. 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.
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Investor Concern Regarding Potential New Regulation in France (2014)

According to the chart, 90% of French investors believe the legal environment has the most negative impact on their investing activities with a significant majority of 87% concerned about investing in digital content intermediaries that are today confronted by ambiguity and uncertain outcomes, potentially large damages, and the risks of secondary liability if new anti-piracy regulations are introduced.
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Investor Concern Regarding Potential New Regulation in Germany (2014)

According to the chart, 80% of German investors believe the legal environment has the most negative impact on their investing activities with a significant majority of 90% concerned about investing in digital content intermediaries that are today confronted by ambiguity and uncertain outcomes, potentially large damages, and the risks of secondary liability if new anti-piracy regulations are introduced.
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Investor Concern Regarding Potential New Regulation in Italy (2014)

In summary, 83% of Italian investors believe the legal environment has the most negative impact on their investing activities with a significant majority of 83% concerned about investing in digital content intermediaries that are today confronted by ambiguity and uncertain outcomes, potentially large damages, and the risks of secondary liability if new anti-piracy regulations are introduced.
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Investor Concern Regarding Potential New Regulation in Spain (2014)

In summary, 97% of Spanish investors believe the legal environment has the most negative impact on their investing activities with a significant majority of 93% concerned about investing in digital content intermediaries that are today confronted by ambiguity and uncertain outcomes, potentially large damages, and the risks of secondary liability if new anti-piracy regulations are introduced.
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Most Significant Obstacles Created by Market Fragmentation for European Small and Midsize Enterprises

This chart demonstrates that a clear majority of Europeans SMEs feel that failures in the single market have led to signifcant or very significant barriers in the expansion of their business. The most promiment of these barriers being complex administrative procedures and differing rules by individual Member States.
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Number of Content Actioned Under Child Nudity and Sexual Exploatation Violations on Facebook

The chart shows the number of content actioned under child nudity and sexual exploatation violations on Facebook. After a constant increase in 2019, this content dropped in the beginning of 2020 by 4.7 million.
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Number of Data Users Disclosures Requests, by Reporting Period (2019)

Google discloses the number of user data requests from government authorities alongside the total number of users/accounts specified in those requests in six-month increments, subject to certain limitations. Google began by reporting on the number of users/accounts requested in the first half of 2011.