The European Commission called on web platform providers such as Facebook, Twitter or YouTube to remove terrorist content within one hour after police authorities and Europol have alerted them, according to an official announcement released by the Berlaymont on March 1.

Vice-President of the EC in charge of Digital Single Market, Andrus Ansip, the European Commissioner for Justice, Vera Jourová, the Security Commissioner Julian King, and the EU’s Commissioner for Economy and Digital Society, Mariya Gabriel were on hand for the unveiling of the Commission’ s ambitious plan to combat online terrorist propaganda.

Ansip said online platforms “have a responsibility to facilitate a secure environment for their users” and that, although some are deleting more illegal content than ever before, it still makes “reacting more quickly” to terrorist propaganda and other illegal content.

“A voluntary approach (to policing the internet for terrorist content) is still our preferred method because it has demonstrated that it is the fastest in giving results, but we have to do much more and, one way or another, meet the objectives we have set,” said King.

As part of the measures put forth to combat illegal content online, the EU executive advises the withdrawal within one hour of the terrorist content “for the serious risk to security” it poses, but not in the rest of the cases considered illegal, such as messages of incitement to hatred and violence, materials of abuse and child sexuality or those linked to counterfeit products.

The sweeping guidelines for speedily scrubbing terrorist-linked and other illegal content from European websites come at a time when the Commission is under pressure from some national governments to make internet firms legally liable for the information that appears on their platforms.

According to the European Commission, terrorist content is “particularly harmful in the first hours of that it appears online…companies should, as a general rule, remove the material within an hour to properly alert the police and Europol.”

Companies are also encouraged to cooperate with each other and exchange detection methods with each other and the police authorities to flag illegal content and send out notifications that will help safeguard t fundamental freedom of speech rights.

The proposals are technically non-binding, but the Commission says new legislation will come into force if the tech giants are unable to demonstrate significant progress in their efforts to curb illegal content within three months.