LONDON — The European Commission has reinforced its position regarding illegal content online in a set of recommendations announced in Brussels on Thursday. The commission wants online platforms to crack down on what they sell, publish, showcase or promote and has laid out a set of operational measures that apply to all forms of illegal content, ranging from counterfeit product sales to copyright infringement.
The commission said platforms need to redouble their efforts to take illegal content off the web more quickly, adding that the spread of illegal content online undermines the trust of citizens on the Internet and poses security threats. The operational guidelines will become a ruling if not voluntarily followed.
Vice president for the digital single market Andrus Ansip said in a statement: “Online platforms are becoming people’s main gateway to information, so they have a responsibility to provide a secure environment for their users. What is illegal off-line is also illegal online. While several platforms have been removing more illegal content than ever before — showing that self-regulation can work — we still need to react faster.”
The Together Against Counterfeiting alliance, which unites more than 80 companies across industrial sections, including LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, voiced its support of the commission’s latest statement.
Toni Belloni, group managing director of LVMH, said: “We support the European Commission’s work in its fight against all types of illegal online content, including counterfeiting. An ever-growing number of fake products are available online, and consumers are often being deceived into buying counterfeit goods. This is simply unacceptable. Proactive measures coupled with good consumer information is the only way to effectively deal with illegal content online.”
Alex Brodie, partner at the international law firm Gowling WLG, said that although the guidelines are not binding, “they reflect the importance of tackling illegality online just as much as in more traditional contexts. They will also contribute to the body of information likely to inform the CJEU (Court of Justice of the European Union) and national courts’ interpretation of existing European legislation, for example the Intellectual Property Enforcement Directive, and the types of relief available through the courts. The guidelines don’t directly address the phenomenon of fake news, but they do signal a move towards the responsibility for content firmly sitting with the service provider and a mindset that content can be governed and acted against.”
Thursday’s announcement follows the commission’s September 2017 commitment to monitoring progress in combating illegal online content and assessing whether additional measures are needed to ensure the detection of such content and the rapid and proactive removal of it, including possible legislative measures to complement the existing regulatory framework.