id2961409regin100602832orig
Security

Study warns of human rights risks from censoring online terror content

Internet companies should not be required to monitor third-party terrorist content that they host or transmit, nor should they face direct or indirect liability from governments for such content, according to a new study.

The Global Network Initiative, a group that represents academics, investors, civil society organizations and companies including Facebook, Google and Microsoft, published its study Tuesday. It's the offshoot of a policy discussion it started in July 2015, exploring key issues such as the human rights implications of government efforts to restrict online content with the aim of protecting public safety.

Liability on internet companies acting as intermediaries, hosting and transmitting third-party content and the requirement that they monitor for terror content may lead them to overdo removal of controversial content, according to the report. Legal demands to restrict content should whenever possible be directed at the creators of content rather than the intermediaries, it added.

Internet intermediaries have come under close scrutiny for extremist content on their sites, which are believed to be used by terror groups both for propaganda and to recruit followers.

A number of companies have said that they are acting to weed out such content from their sites. Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter agreed with the European Union in May to remove from their websites illegal hate speech, visible in Europe, that could incite hatred or acts of terror.

But in August, the Home Affairs Committee of the House of Commons in the U.K. described as alarming that social networking companies have very small teams to monitor billions of accounts for extremist content. Some companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter are also facing lawsuits from families of victims who claim that these companies provide tools for terrorists

The GNI is, however, wary that in pushing forward in their fight against terrorism, governments across the world could encroach on fundamental rights, including rights of expression and privacy, and also force internet intermediaries to compromise their principles and business strategies.

Governments should not pressure companies to modify their terms of service, according to the report. “Companies develop TOS in order to deliver user experiences that are appropriate for the nature or type of service, and the user community of the service,” it said.

When governments ask companies to remove content under their TOS, governments should “guard against the risks that such referrals may set precedents for extra-judicial government censorship,” without providing access to remedy, accountability, or transparency for users and the public.

“If governments make such referrals, they should be transparent about, and accountable for, such referrals,” according to the report. Unless prevented from doing so by law, companies should also be transparent with their users when asked by governments to remove or restrict content, it added.

The GNI's proposals are at this point only recommendations. The group plans to use them in engagements on public policy, including its role as part of the advisory board of a UN project on private sector and civil society involvement in countering the use of the internet and communications technologies by terror groups.

IDG Insider

PREVIOUS ARTICLE

« Sony X930D 4K UHD TV review: Color and HDR done the Sony way.

NEXT ARTICLE

Wisconsin recount over suspected hacking will not be entirely by hand »
author_image
IDG News Service

The IDG News Service is the world's leading daily source of global IT news, commentary and editorial resources. The News Service distributes content to IDG's more than 300 IT publications in more than 60 countries.

  • Mail

Recommended for You

International Women's Day: We've come a long way, but there's still an awfully long way to go

Charlotte Trueman takes a diverse look at today’s tech landscape.

Trump's trade war and the FANG bubble: Good news for Latin America?

Lewis Page gets down to business across global tech

20 Red-Hot, Pre-IPO companies to watch in 2019 B2B tech - Part 1

Martin Veitch's inside track on today’s tech trends

Poll

Do you think your smartphone is making you a workaholic?