Fitzgerald meets EU justice ministers over online hate speech and e-evidence

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald met EU justice ministers in Brussels yesterday to discuss issues including online hate speech, e-evidence and encryption.

She also met separately with newly-appointed UK Minister of State Sir Oliver Heald to discuss matters of common interest.

The discussion on tackling online hate speech focussed on furthering the partnership established with Internet Companies to find ways to identify, remove and prevent online hate speech and terrorist content.

Ms Fitzgerald said: “Working in partnership with the Internet companies is vital to tackling the scourge of online hate speech and terrorist material online. Such material is offensive to our citizens and our values. It cannot be tolerated. Together, we will be resolute in finding ways to identify, take down and block all such offensive material.”

The justice ministers discussed the importance of electronic evidence, or e-evidence, and modern approaches to securing e-evidence before it is destroyed or concealed from investigators.

Ms Fitzgerald said: “It is essential that we fully recognise the growing relevance of data to investigations, and the increasing threat posed by cybercrime. Some existing laws may well be ill-fitted to investigations requiring access to e-evidence. We must explore better mechanisms for engagement with data holders to maximise cooperation and ensure evidence is obtained speedily.”

On encryption, Ms Fitzgerald said encrypted data “pose very real and significant problems for law enforcement authorities”.

However, she added: “On the other hand, there are legitimate uses and advantages of encryption for individuals wishing to protect their data.”

She urged her European colleagues to work towards a consistency in approach to find a way to provide for the needs encryption legitimately addresses while mitigating the risks it can present.

Ministers also discussed a proposal for better protection of consumers that enter into contracts for the supply of digital content.

The proposal would eliminate “the key contract law related barriers hindering cross-border trade” in order to contribute to the growth of the Digital Single Market.

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