The CleanIT is a project carried out with the financial support of the European Commission. The Project discusses the central role played by the Internet for terrorists and extremist networks.
October 2012. However, EuroISPA expresses skepticism about the approach and the suggested methods to address alleged terrorism content online, as discussed within the CleanIT Project. At EuroISPA, we all agree that there is illegal content on the Internet. We all also agree that it ought to be taken off the Internet and that this can technically only be done by the entities that have control over the relevant IT systems. However, we also believe that any action or initiative must be preceded by a process that clearly identifies and quantifies the problem to be addressed.
If such a process has not been defined, not only will it be difficult or impossible to identify solutions, but there is a considerable risk that the Internet industry will be forced to implement ill-designed solutions to an ill-defined problem.
The CleanIT Project is clearly heading in this worrying direction:
1. The General Principles of the CleanIT Project do not provide any evidence or statistical information whatsoever to justify the adoption of “additional measures” by Internet providers in relation to allegedly terrorist content. An evidence based approach is the backbone of any legislative or self-regulatory intervention. Lacking any comprehensive assessment showing clearly where the shortcomings lie, any action, particularly if “proactive”, would risk creating a problem that does not exist.
2. The CleanIT Project shows clearly a superficial knowledge of the Internet sector. The documents on the CleanIT Project’s website refer to “Internet companies” in general, but for the purposes of the project a holistic approach can’t be taken. For example, the notice and take down procedures proposed in the project are relevant only to companies that are hosting providers. Pure access providers cannot deploy this tool. Access Providers, due to the ambiguous terminology would, however, still be bound to follow the proposed procedures and, in fact, are mentioned alongside content delivery companies and content publishing companies.
3. The CleanIT Project proposes that Internet companies take proactive measures to detect the “unequivocal use” of the Internet for terrorism purposes specifying that where the industry “cannot agree” on the unlawful nature of content, only then should a judge be requested to perform such a value judgment. This is a clear attempt to privatise the law enforcement and judicial duties in relation to a specific content, terrorism, whose illegality greatly depends on the context.
4. The CleanIT Project seems to overlap with other initiatives currently discussed by other Commission’s Directorates-General, i.e. the “Notice&Action” initiative by DG Internal Market (addressing illegal activities online in a horizontal way); the “Open Voluntarism” initiative (to create a European, principles-based code of conduct for self- and co-regulatory mechanisms) and the “ICT4Society” (to set a multi-stakeholders platform to advance Corporate Social Responsibility in the ICT sector) by DG CNECT.
5. The CleanIT Project has not been endorsed by the ISP community. The disclaimer on the website of CleanIT goes as far as specifying that even if some companies attended the meetings “[t]his does not implicate any commitment to temporary or future results by the individuals or their organization”. This clear acknowledgement of lack of support is symptomatic of the legitimacy of the CleanIT project and of the restrictive and, sometimes, even dangerous measures proposed.