Digital Transformation of Decision-Making

A research initiative of the Amsterdam Law School

NEW REPORT: Legal Routes for the Speedy Removal of Unlawful Online Content

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The study was conducted in the context of the Dutch Minister for Legal Protection’s agenda in order to improve the position of victims of unlawful online content. The report provides insight into the legal and practical feasibility of a provision for the removal of unlawful online content that affects people personally. The purpose of the research is to enable people to remove unlawful online content as quickly as possible. It focuses on unlawful content that affects people, and thus falls under the right to private life (Article 8, ECHR).

The report highlights that on one hand, there are routes that are relatively fast, accessible and scalable, such as notice and takedown directly via reporting directly to an internet service. On the other hand, procedures that offer optimal guarantees of the rule of law, such as a trial before civil court, is more complex. However, a combination of all of these is not possible. For example, the unlawfulness of a certain statement is not easy to determine in all cases, and freedom of expression must be protected, so content cannot simply be removed. However, according to the report, it is possible to remove or weaken bottlenecks by modifying and improving existing facilities.

As such, one promising solution is directed towards the further standardisation of complaints procedures for internet services themselves. In addition, experiments can be done by providing more accessible civil proceedings for very urgent cases in which the judge can give a decision quickly. The provision of information to disadvantaged parties can also be improved, in which the government can play an active role.

The study was led by Joris van Hoboken. Researchers involved are Naomi Appelman, Anna van Duin, Tom Blom, Brahim Zarouali, Ronan Fahy, Michelle Seel, Elisabetta Stringhi and Natali Helberger.

A press release can be viewed here (in Dutch).
The full report can be viewed here (in Dutch), with a summary here (in English).