Police across Europe will “patrol” Facebook, Google and Twitter for postings supporting terrorism under an EU project detailed in a leaked report.Internet firms also face an array of new obligations to monitor their services for extremist material, according to a document about the “Clean IT” initiative seen by The Telegraph.
“It must be legal for police officers to ‘patrol’ on social media. This includes having a profile, joining user groups, sending and receiving messages, on the platform,” the document says.
Officials are also preparing proposals for “semi automated detection” systems and buttons to allow users to report suspicious activity on social networks and chatrooms to authorities.
“Users must be provided a way to flag/report terrorism and radicalising content as a separate, specific category to flag/report,” the report, produced last month, recommends.
“Providers of chat boxes, email services, messaging systems, social networks, retailing sites, voice over internet protocol ad web forums must have flagging systems.”
The monitoring and flagging systems would be linked to law enforcement agencies, with data shared across Europe.
The plan is likely to spark alarm among internet companies, who have long argued it would be impractical and repressive to force them to police the web. The plans call for new legislation that would force internet companies to offer filtering software as a condition of trading in the EU.
Civil rights activists warned that Clean IT, funded by a 400,000 euro grant and led by Dutch counter-terrorism officials, could mandate “vigilantism” online and a clampdown on free speech.
Joe McNamee, chief executive of the civil rights organisation EDRi ” warned that the project could have unintended consequences for web users.
“I’m not a terrorist, as long as a Greek or Estonian policeman doesn’t accidentally think I’m a terrorist,” he said.
“The initiative has become little more than a protection racket (use filtering or be held liable for terrorist offences) for the online security industry.
“The initial meetings, with their directionless and ill-informed discussions about doing “something” to solve unidentified online ‘terrorist’ problems were mainly attended by filtering companies, who saw an interesting business opportunity.
“Their work has paid off, with numerous proposals for filtering by companies and governments, proposals for liability in case sufficiently intrusive filtering is not used.”
British counter-terrorism officials have been involved in the discussions, which are due to result in final recommendations to be implemented by EU members over the next two years. They are understood to have concerns about the direction and competence of the Clean IT project.
The Office of Security and Counter Terrorism, a secretive Home Office unit, already maintains a blacklist of terrorist websites used in filtering software at universities, libraries and other public networks.
Among proposals yet “to be discussed” by the Clean IT project are measures to discourage anonymity online, under the label “real identity policies.
“Internet companies must only allow real, common names,” the leaked document suggests.
“These must be entered when registering. On request of an internet company, a registrant must provide proof of the real or common name.”
“Social media companies must only allow real pictures of users.”
While Facebook already inists its members use their real names, Twitter has long advocated anonymity as a vital part of free speech online and resisted attempts to uncover its members’ identities by American authorities investigating the Occupy protests.
Mr McNamee suggested that repressive regimes would “laugh till they choke when the EU next lectures them regarding free speech online”.
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