EU Chief wants to block 'undesirable' content on the web

europe flagYesterday the new European Union anti-terror chief appeared infront of MPs to discuss various issues, including what people are reading online.

As we’ve previously warned, the UK’s Anti-Extremism task force has already alluded to greater filtering of web content and now the EU has taken it one step further, with Gilles de Kerchove telling MPs he wanted to remove “not illegal, undesirable websites.”

Setting out the action being taken by the EU he said: “The Commissioner for Home Affairs will set up a forum to discuss with the big players – Google, Facebook, Twitter – how we can improve the way one removes from the internet the illegal and if not illegal, undesirable websites.”

Freedom of speech, and of the press, are essential parts of a free and democratic society. It should not be in the gift of politicians to decide what we read or who can write it and absolutely not on the basis of what some may consider undesirable. If content is to be blocked, it should be a decision taken by a court of law and only when a clear criminal test has been met establishing the content is illegal.

The mind boggles at what a European official might consider undesirable – perhaps our criticisms of the European Arrest Warrant has caught Mr de Kerchove’s attention.

Given one EU report last year discussed how “Media councils should have real enforcement powers, such as the imposition of fines, orders for printed or broadcast apologies, or removal of journalistic status. The national media councils should follow a set of European‐wide standards and be monitored by the Commission to ensure that they comply with European values”  it is clear the threats to freedom of speech and to a free press are not just a domestic issue.

You can download our policy briefing on blocking extremist websites here.