EU Guidelines to Further Tighten Up on Provider Liability: eco Warns Against Violations of Applicable Legislation

  • Existing liability framework of the e-Commerce Directive is balanced and functioning

  • For over 20 years, eco has been consistently fighting against illegal Internet content

In considering the guidelines published today by the European Commission (EU) on Notice & Action, eco – Association of the Internet Industry warns against undermining the existing liability framework of the e-Commerce Directive under the guise of combating illegal Internet content. With the new guidelines, the EU wants to make platform operators even more accountable and to further expand existing procedures and responsibilities. At the same time, however, the Commission has also acknowledged that there can be no "one size fits all" solution for combating illegal content on the Internet.

Existing liability framework of the e-Commerce Directive is balanced and functioning

Platform operators and Internet providers are already efficiently supporting law enforcement authorities in implementing the law. This support even extends beyond legal obligations, in the form of voluntary agreements such as those operated by the eco Complaints Office.

"The existing legal framework of the e-Commerce Directive is well-balanced and already offers all possible options for effectively combating illegal Internet content. The real challenge is enforcement. Here, it is the responsibility of the state to address the causes of the problem through more effective prosecution of the perpetrators, and to raise public awareness of inflammatory, hateful speech and illegal content. Shifting responsibility for legal enforcement to providers and the introduction of automatic filter systems are unacceptable solutions," says Oliver Süme, eco Board Member for Policy and Law.

The need for concrete legal framework parameters is very important and these must be retained, especially in combating "legal borderline cases" on the Internet. This need is borne out by the experiences of the eco Complaints Office. According to Süme, "We are operating within a sensitive charged relationship between freedom of expression and speech classified as criminal. A high-quality legal assessment requires a clearly defined legal framework as a foundation."

eco has been consistently fighting against illegal Internet content for over 20 years

For over 20 years, eco has been consistently and successfully leading the fight against illegal content on the Internet. On this basis, it appeals once again to the EU Commission to recognize that different types of content require varying processing times, and that radical attempts to speed up processes or to assert rigid deadlines – such as those being pursued at national level with the German Act for the Improvement of Law Enforcement in Social Networks (NetzDG) – are inefficient or even counterproductive.