French anti-terrorist unit demands removal of adverts, books, US-government produced reports from web archives
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This article was amended on 15 April following a correction published by the Internet Archive, clarifying that the French Internet Referral Unit sent the requests via Europol's internet referral portal, rather than Europol itself sending the requests.
France's national Internet Referral Unit has been busy sending requests to the Internet Archive for the removal of hundreds of web pages, but the Archive has said there is a serious problem - none of the URLs in question contain terrorist propaganda.
The pages that the French unit wants the Internet Archive to remove include works from the American Libraries collection, old television adverts and programmes, the Smithsonian Libraries, television broadcasts of the US House of Representatives and even an academic paper entitled 'Spectrum Sharing in Cognitive Radio with Quantized Channel Information'.
As the Internet Archive has highlighted in a blog post, such requests pose a clear threat to freedom of expression and information.
The requests also demonstrate the huge practical problems posed by the forthcoming EU Terrorist Content Regulation, which would require web hosts to remove alleged terrorist propaganda within one hour of receiving a letter of notice:
"The Internet Archive has a few staff members that process takedown notices from law enforcement who operate in the Pacific time zone. Most of the falsely identified URLs mentioned here (including the report from the French government) were sent to us in the middle of the night between midnight and 3am Pacific and all of the reports were sent outside of the business hours of the Internet Archive.
The one-hour requirement essentially means that we would need to take reported URLs down automatically and do our best to review them after the fact.
It would be bad enough if the mistaken URLs in these examples were for a set of relatively obscure items on our site, but the EU IRUs lists include some of the most visited pages on archive.org and materials that obviously have high scholarly and research value."
See: Official EU Agencies Falsely Report More Than 550 Archive.org URLs as Terrorist Content (Internet Archive, link)
On the Terrorist Content Regulation, see: Terrorist content online: Civil Liberties Committees makes improvements but proposal still dangerous (Statewatch News Online, 10 April 2019)
Statewatch has previously published two analyses looking at Europol's Internet Referral Unit:
- Policing the internet: how Europol takes action against undesirable content online (July 2017, pdf)
- Policing the internet: from terrorism and extremism to content used by traffickers to attract migrants and refugees" (March 2016)
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