EU mulls plans for police to monitor web

Police across Europe could soon monitor social media for content supporting terrorism, a leaked EU report has revealed

Police across Europe could soon find themselves monitoring Facebook, Google and Twitter for content related to terrorism.

A leaked report about a “Clean IT” initiative by the European Union (EU) revealed the plan for police officers to “patrol” social media by joining and participating in social media groups.

EU officials are preparing proposals for semi-automated detection systems and buttons to allow social media users to report suspicious activity, according to the Telegraph.

In addition, internet firms face new obligations to monitor their services for extremist material, according to the leaked document.  

The initiative calls for monitoring and flagging systems to be linked to law enforcement agencies, with data shared across Europe.

The Clean IT project is yet to consider measures to discourage anonymity online, but the leaked document suggests internet companies should allow only real names for registration. Registrants should be required to provide proof of name on request, says the EU.

Civil rights groups have warned the plan could create vigilantism online and clamp down on free speech. Some commentators believe the initiative could cause alarm among internet companies, who have long argued it would be impractical and repressive to force them to police the web.

But some have called for new legislation to force internet companies to provide filtering software as a condition of trading in the EU.

Critics say the initiative has become little more than a protection racket for suppliers of content filtering technologies.  

UK counter-terrorism officials have been involved in discussions aimed at hammering out final recommendations to be implemented by EU members in the next two years, but have expressed concerns about the direction and competence of the Clean IT project, according to reports.

Snooping bill branded incompetent

Earlier this month, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales slammed as “technologically incompetent” the UK’s Draft Data Communications Bill, which will make it easier for security and police services to spy on emails, phone calls and internet activity of UK citizens.

He said Wikipedia would encrypt all its connections to the UK if local internet service providers (ISPs) are required by law to keep track of every single page accessed by UK citizens.

The Draft Communications Bill is designed to update existing procedures for allowing access to information such as phone numbers and email addresses, but will not allow access to the content of conversations without a warrant.

Wales predicted a general move to encryption across the internet if UK ISPs are mandated to collect and store data for 12 months from overseas companies such as Google and Facebook.

Wales was addressing MPs and peers of a select committee hearing pre-legislative evidence from the internet industry on the proposed Bill announced in May.

The plans were sharply criticised by human rights campaigners when the Communications Data Bill was announced. Now UK ISPs have raised concerns about the responsibility for retaining and storing sensitive data from overseas third-party companies.

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