Opening remarks by Commissioner Avramopoulos at the 5th Ministerial Meeting of the EU Internet Forum, luxembourg 7/10/2019

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7 Oct 2019
  • Αβραμόπουλος Avramopoulos
  • Αβραμόπουλος Avramopoulos
  • Αβραμόπουλος Avramopoulos
  • Αβραμόπουλος Avramopoulos


Dear Ministers,
Representatives of the internet companies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear friends,
Welcome to the fifth EU Internet Forum.
This Forum has become a milestone in the EU efforts against terrorist content online.
I feel proud that during my mandate as Commissioner, not only have we established this Forum, but it has developed into a dynamic platform for exchanges, which has led to concrete actions and results against terrorism and violent extremism online.
This is rewarding but at the same time it increases expectations for the future.
A while back, nobody would dare talk about cooperation between internet companies and governments or law enforcement to reduce terrorist content online.
Five years ago, we could not imagine that this Forum would succeed to gather so many industry partners around the table with one common goal: to address and counter the use of the Internet for terrorist purposes.
Together, with the support of Europol, we have developed a solid relationship of trust. This relationship was, and remains the basis for cooperation in many fields, ranging from taking down terrorist content to supporting alternative narratives online.
I would like to commend you for all the good work on this joint endeavour to make the internet a safer place.
This is the perfect moment to reflect on the achievements so far but also to look into the future and ever evolving challenges as well as new opportunities.
In Year 1, 2015, we established an efficient referral mechanism through Europol: the EU Internet Referral Unit. 112,553 pieces of content were identified which triggered 107,212 decisions for referral. It is Europol’s expertise and added value that encouraged many smaller companies to become more engaged.
In Year 2, 2016, the industry announced here its database of hashes, to make removals permanent and irreversible. 200,000 hashes now populate the database. Its impact can grow exponentially as more companies join it.
In Year 3 and 4, 2017 and 2018, we concretely show in this Forum that we can harness Artificial Intelligence in the fight against terrorism. Facebook, Google and Twitter report around 99% of automated removals.
In Year 5, this year, we are moving forward with the development of the EU Crisis Protocol – a rapid response to contain the viral spread of terrorist and violent extremist content online.
For all this effort, I am thankful to the platforms that have joined their forces with ours. This is our preferred way: to work together, with trust, and to continue working in this way to take our cooperation further. 
Moreover, through the Civil Society Empowerment Programme we provide civil society with the necessary support to design and implement an effective and credible campaigns against the terrorist narrative and providing positive alternatives.  Part of the support in the form of trainings was developed in close collaboration with industry partners, the Radicalisation Awareness Network and the European Strategic Communications Network.
The companies have increasingly taken responsibility for proactively identifying and removing online content, something which was not always easy.
The EU Internet Forum was the blueprint for many other success stories such us the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT).  
The work within the EU Internet Forum shows that our collective determination, joint expertise and resources lead to innovative solutions and concrete results for the protection of our citizens.
We have increased the willingness to support one another in order to collectively stem the dissemination of terrorist content across platforms.
Nevertheless, we cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that terrorists’ continue to innovate on the ways they spread extremist propaganda on the Internet.
His Excellency, the Ambassador from New Zealand joins this Forum today for the first time, as we have been closely cooperating with New Zealand over the past months following the Christchurch Call for Action.
The attack against two mosques in Christchurch, in which 51 people were murdered by a single gunman, is only the latest and most high-profile example of acts of terrorism being live-streamed. The online dimension was an integral part of the attack itself.
I want to congratulate New Zealand, for having launched, in the aftermath of this horrendous attack, a call for action, uniting the industry, international partners and civil society.
The Commission supports this call and stands ready to contribute to its implementation. We have made available our experience in developing tools and guidance in how to best prevent radicalisation leading to violent extremism and terrorism.
The aftermath of the Christchurch attack demonstrated also the need to do more in removing and banning terrorist and violent extremist content that goes viral.
Today, we seek your endorsement for establishing principles of cooperation in the event of a future crisis. It is thanks to the expertise and experience of Europol, and collaboration with Member States and the industry that we were able to develop and test this EU Crisis protocol.
While the EU crisis protocol should allow us to be more prepared in the future and to contain a similar crisis quicker and more effectively. There are many other challenges that require our attention: Europol has found terrorist content on nearly 300 platforms and report seeing again an uptake in the production of jihadist propaganda.
In addition, we are increasingly facing new challenges with violent right wing extremist groups imitating the propaganda strategies of terrorist groups such as Da’esh and Al-Qaida and inventing new ones. At the same time, content is moving to decentralised platforms to avoid content monitoring and removal.
Governments, the private sector, and civil society must continue to work together to address these challenges.
Let me say one last word on the proposed regulation on terrorist content online: This proposal is aimed at strengthening our collaboration not weakening it. It sets out clear rules and responsibilities and thereby increases legal certainty and a level playing field for all players, big or small.
I also welcome the discussions on the fight against child sexual abuse material online that will take place today for the first time in this forum.
The internet has created unprecedented opportunities for abusers to share child sexual abuse material. Cooperation between public authorities and technology companies is key to fight effectively against mistreatment of children.
The Forum is well-placed to facilitate that cooperation and contribute to better protect our children from these nefarious crimes.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear friends,
The challenges are many. Some of those challenges we will be looking at today: violent right wing extremism, transparency around recommender algorithms and the emerging use of decentralised platforms.
Preventing and countering terrorism requires us to join forces. This Forum is the proof of it.
I am proud to have taken this initiative and launched this Forum 4 years ago and I would like to thank you again all of you for your participation and commitment.
I would like to express my thanks to the internet platforms. We have to work together to achieve our common goal. I am grateful to the spirit of cooperation shared with Member States and the European Commission.
I am confident that our shared commitment to this Forum, this strong and trustful cooperation we have built, will continue to be the EU frontline against terrorist content online.
Terrorists are defeated on the ground but not on this battleground, which is the internet.
I hope that today we will have a frank and fruitful discussion.
Thank you. 

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