More countries have voiced support for a proposed Europe-wide notice and takedown system that attempts to minimise promotion or planning of terrorist acts on the internet.
The ‘Clean IT’ project aims to combine a takedown system, web user “flagging” mechanism and a database of illegal content in an attempt to remove or prevent access to sites relating to such acts.
The project was established by the Netherlands’ Ministry of Justice and Security, and supported from its inception by similar agencies in Germany, Belgium, Spain and the UK.
iTnews has learned that representatives from Austria, Hungary and Romania have all since expressed interest in contributing to the project.
National cybercrime units of the Czech Republic and Luxemburg have also been invited to contribute.
France is one of the more notable omissions from the original group of Clean IT participants, but the project’s leaders remain hopeful of the country's cooperation.
The French Government has already experimented with software tools used by browsers used to report child abuse and hate speech, and a French association of internet service providers has also asked the project leaders to have Clean IT represented at their upcoming conference.
Regional solution to a global problem
But Klaasen, program manager at the Netherland’s National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security office, and for the Clean IT initiative, conceded that it was “arbitrary” for a notice and takedown system to be restricted to a group of European countries.
To be truly effective, the proposals put forward would need the buy-in of the whole region, and in time, the rest of the world.
“Today this is limited to European borders and I acknowledge the internet is global,” he told iTnews on the sidelines of the event.
Time is also running out to gain Europe-wide consensus, as funding for the Clean IT project ends in February next year.
“Where it goes from there depends on our level of success,” Klaasen said.
“Many of the participants like the discussions we have had and the trust circle we created. There have been calls for a permanent platform. But I am very experienced with leading projects, and one rule is that the project has to have an end.”
The ‘best practices’ developed by the Clean IT group could, however, live on if embraced by larger bodies such as the the European DIG (Discussion on Internet Governance), the United Nations or the Council of Europe.
“If Clean IT is a success, I hope it goes global,” Klaasen said.
Convincing the industry
An equally difficult challenge will be winning over the world’s largest internet companies to agree to a common code.
Klaasen said that while all internet companies “don't want a terrorist to benefit" from their services, many are hesitant to express public support for the Clean IT project for fear of a user backlash over web censorship.
He expressed dismay that some commentators had compared the program to efforts by national governments to censor the internet, or to the secretive ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) negotiations.
The obvious difference between ACTA and Clean IT was that the latter has invited the internet industry to participate.
Groups such as the Internet Society of Belgium (ISOC), the Computer Association of the Netherlands (HCC), the International Network Against Cyberhate (INACH) and the International League Against Racism and Antisemitism (LICRA) have had a voice at the conferences.
Klaasen has also directly offered an opportunity for the most vocal opponents of his work to join the process and express their concerns.
Pascal Gloor, vice president of the Swiss Pirate Party, attended the Berlin conference and has raised objections to some of the proposals.
Digital rights organisations are “welcome” at the discussion, Klaasen said, “as long as they are a reasonable discussion partner".
“It is very important to have detractors close to the discussion, in order to find a balance,” he said.
“We are trying to find security measures that balance with internet freedom and privacy. So we have invited many of them, but some don't want to be part of it. That’s fair enough. I keep them informed anyway.”
He could not confirm whether Google, Microsoft, Apple or any global internet technology giants had agreed to participate, but noted that to date it has been “quite difficult to involve many of these companies".
“The large ones tend to be concerned about their public image, the small ones do not have the time to discuss it with us,” he said.
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