Removal order and upload filter: Controversial EU negotiations before conclusion

Internet service providers comply with police requests to remove content on a large scale on a voluntary basis, but a legislative proposal would force them to cooperate. An agreement could still be reached under the German Presidency of the Council.

Negotiations on an EU regulation against the distribution of terrorist content online could be successfully concluded in the coming weeks. Following the recent attacks in France and Vienna, the Parliament and the Member States of the European Union have made concessions on key points. This emerges from a draft of 9 November which was put online by the British civil rights organisation Statewatch on the trilogue negotiations in which the Commission is also involved.

With the legislative proposal for a „Regulation on Preventing the Dissemination of Terrorist Content Online“ presented by the Commission two years ago, the EU is pressing for „enhanced action“ against terrorist activities. A whole chapter of the draft is devoted to measures that should „effectively tackle“ uploading and sharing of text, images, sound recordings and videos, including a one-hour time limit between placement of the order and its implementation as well as technical means to prevent a reupload. Critics had understood this to mean the introduction of upload filters even for small providers. „Removal order and upload filter: Controversial EU negotiations before conclusion“ weiterlesen

Anti-terrorism at walking pace: Little European Union action against right-wing extremists

Only after the attack in Christchurch did the EU Commission and the Council take violent right-wing extremism and terrorism more seriously. However, no progress has been made in the cross-border fight against the phenomenon. Some Member States are putting the brakes on political decisions and consider terrorist attacks only as „extremism“.

On 15 March 2019, the Australian-born right-wing terrorist Brenton Tarrant shot 51 people in cold blood and injured another 50 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The perpetrator is considered a „lone wolf“ or „lone actor“, i.e. an individual who has radicalised himself in right-wing forums and social media on the internet. For many years, European police and secret services have monitored and prosecuted the phenomenon exclusively in the field of Islamist terrorism. Only after the momentous attack did cross-border right-wing networks and „lone actors“ radicalised through their structures find their way onto the EU agenda.

There are well-organised right-wing extremist associations such as Blood and Honour, Combat 18, Hammerskins, Soldiers of Odin, the Nordic Resistance Movement or the Identitarians, which all operate throughout Europe and also have connections on other continents. Their activities were partly observed by the EU, but not perceived as a threat. The EU police agency Europol publishes the „Trend Report on Terrorism in Europe“ (TESAT) every year. There, „right-wing terrorism“ is still at the end of the document after „jihadist terrorism“, „ethno-nationalist and separatist terrorism“ and „left-wing terrorism“, where Europol counts mainly arson attacks in the member states. „Anti-terrorism at walking pace: Little European Union action against right-wing extremists“ weiterlesen

Without mandate: EU cooperates with European secret services

Although the Lisbon Treaty excludes intelligence cooperation, European domestic services cooperate with Europol and a Situation Centre in Brussels. Next week, the Justice and Home Affairs Council will discuss extending this questionable practice.

The European Union intends to further intensify cooperation with the Counter Terrorism Group (CTG). At the forthcoming meeting of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers in Brussels, the group will once again present a report on cooperation in the fight against terrorism. Afterwards, an „exchange of ideas“ is planned. Because two non-EU states are also organised in the CTG, the Justice and Home Affairs Council will take place in the so-called Schengen format with Switzerland and Norway.

The secret services group has been regularly invited to the Council of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers for the past four years. Its last report took place at the joint meeting in June. Topics included returning combatants from countries such as Syria and Iraq and the need to decrypt telecommunications. The CTG also reported plans to extend its tasks, currently limited to Islamist terrorism, to other areas. „Without mandate: EU cooperates with European secret services“ weiterlesen

Uploadfilter for crime scene videos: EU governments ensure „crisis response protocol“ for US Internet companies

The Christchurch attack has promoted discussions on the mandatory removal of online content. At several levels, the German government is involved in global initiatives. However, the German exaggerated requests for deletion find little sympathy.

The German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) is not very successful in removing terrorist Internet content. With 2,800 files or postings, not even half of all German reports were removed by Internet service providers after an examination. This was written by the Federal Ministry of the Interior in response to a parlamentarian question.

Thus the BKA is clearly below the quota of 85%, as it is reached by the EU police agency Europol for reports to the companies. Since 2015, Europol has been sending requests for deletion via its „Internet Referral Unit“ (EU IRU). In October last year, the BKA also set up a „national Internet Referral Unit“ and since then has sent more than 6,000 reports to Internet service providers via the Europol channel. „Uploadfilter for crime scene videos: EU governments ensure „crisis response protocol“ for US Internet companies“ weiterlesen

Upload filters: Europol is creating facts

The planned EU Regulation on the removal of „terrorist content online“ has no longer made it through the legislative process; in autumn the newly elected parliament will decide on it. The governments hope that the MEPs will then vote in favour of tightening up the legislation.

On 12 September, the EU Commission presented its proposal for a for a Regulation on „preventing the dissemination of terrorist content online“. It was to be voted on in an urgent procedure under the current EU Parliament, but was not able to make it through the necessary trilogue procedure between Council, Parliament and Commission.

According to the Commission and Council, the regulation would force Internet service providers to remove „extremist“ and „terrorist“ files as quickly as possible. To this end, the law enforcement authorities are to issue removal orders which must be complied with within an hour. This applies to videos, images, text files or entire websites. „Upload filters: Europol is creating facts“ weiterlesen

German Police launches „National Internet Referral Unit“

Europol has requested the removal of Internet content in almost 100,000 cases. The companies adressed are responding to a considerable extent. The German BKA has now also set up a contact office, which has sent almost 6,000 reports since its short existence and cooperates closely with Europol, also about „smuggling crime“.

The German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) maintains a registration office for the removal of Internet content. The „National Internet Referral Unit“ has been in operation since October last year. Since then, the BKA has already sent 5,895 reports on suspected criminal content to Internet companies. That writes the Federal Ministry of the Interior in the answer to a set of parlamentarian questions. „German Police launches „National Internet Referral Unit““ weiterlesen

„Crawling, monitoring and gathering“: EU funds search engine for criminal Internet content

European police authorities and arms companies are working on a „powerful terrorism intelligence platform“ on the Internet. It is intended to track down material to promote violence and radicalisation. The technology thus goes far beyond the threat of upload filters.

In the security research programme „TENSOR“, the European Union is developing automatic detection of criminal content on the Internet. The technology is to find material that can „contribute to the advancement of terrorist violence and radicalisation“ in an automated process. On the project website, this is referred to as „crawling, monitoring and gathering“. Described as a tool for „Internet penetration“, it should also operate in multilingual social media and use „dialogue-empowered bots“ with artificial intelligence. Found criminal content will then be categorized and interpreted so that it can be used by law enforcement agencies. The software would also be used in Darknet.

The project is the technical implementation of the demand for „early detection“ of terrorist organised activities, radicalisation and recruitment as called for by the European Union in the Council Conclusions and a Commission paper of 2017. It calls not only for the rapid removal of „illegal online content“, but also for its „proactive detection“. „„Crawling, monitoring and gathering“: EU funds search engine for criminal Internet content“ weiterlesen

Europol to „disrupt smuggling networks‘ online communications“

To combat terrorism, the EU police agency reports Internet content to providers for removal. These finds are not necessarily punishable. Now the Internet Referral Unit at Europol is to take stronger action against „smuggling networks“.

The police agency Europol is to have more Internet content on „migrant smuggling“ deleted. This is the conclusion of a paper on „Enhancing the response to migrant smuggling networks“ passed by the interior and justice ministers of the European Union last week.

The document is based on Council conclusions of 18 October 2018 calling for more investigations and prosecution of such activities at both national and EU level. However, the „operational set of measures“ now adopted does not have the force of law. Instead, it gathers declarations of intent for operational measures to strengthen existing instruments and create „synergies“. „Europol to „disrupt smuggling networks‘ online communications““ weiterlesen

“E-smuggling”: Europol steps up efforts against online-assisted migrant crossings

According to the EU police agency, in the past year 17,459 people operated as “human traffickers”. In the majority of cases, refugees and their facilitators communicate using Facebook or Telegram. Seizing of electronic evidence is thus to take on a greater role in investigations.

Last year, the EU police agency Europol received reports of 1,150 social media accounts apparently used by refugees to facilitate their entry into or travel through the European Union. This information is based on figures (PDF) published by the European Migrant Smuggling Center (EMSC) at Europol for 2016. The number of incriminated accounts in 2015 was just 148.

The report does not differentiate between humanitarian assistance for refugees and commercial offers. It is also unclear how many of the accounts were reported to the online providers to be removed. According to Europol, the rate of compliance with requests for deletion among companies was around 90 percent. „“E-smuggling”: Europol steps up efforts against online-assisted migrant crossings“ weiterlesen

First child pornography, now extremism: Internet providers and police investigation authorities to use Microsoft upload filters

Material uploaded onto the Web could soon be scanned for extremist or radicalising content with an upload filter produced by Microsoft. The filter would be installed in the systems of Internet service providers (ISPs), but the necessary databases could be held by the police authorities.

Two weeks ago in Washington, the international Counter Extremism Project presented a software solution with which extremist content is said to be detectable on upload. The process is based on PhotoDNA, an application originally developed by Microsoft to combat child pornography. It is able to detect video and audio content. The recognition rate is reportedly in the region of 98%.

PhotoDNA operates on the principle known as ‘robust hashing’ and extracts a distinct digital signature from the file. With the checksum, the software is then able to recognise images even if they have been distorted or post-edited. The comparison is made with a hash database, which is administered either by ISPs or by both ISPs and public authorities. In the United States, for example, PhotoDNA makes use of the database of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Interpol, the International Criminal Police Organization, also maintains a Child Sexual Exploitation Image Database. „First child pornography, now extremism: Internet providers and police investigation authorities to use Microsoft upload filters“ weiterlesen