LONDON: Authorities in Denmark are moving ahead with plans to force Facebook and other social media companies to remove illegal posts within 24 hours, after it emerged that the grieving relatives of a victim of terrorism were repeatedly sent videos of her execution.
Danish backpacker Louisa Vesterager Jespersen was beheaded by Daesh-aligned terrorists in Morocco in 2018. There was a public outcry in her home country when it was revealed that her mother and sister have been bombarded on social media by video footage of the decapitation, often uploaded by anonymous accounts.
This has put ministers under pressure to take action to reign in the platforms, and plans were recently announced for a crack down on sites that fail to take swift action to remove illegal content.
The move to introduce strict time limits within which content such as video footage of beheadings must be removed would follow in the footsteps of other European countries. Germany, for example requires platforms to remove “clearly illegal” content within 24 hours of posting or risk a €50 million ($57 million) fine. France requires an even faster response, giving companies just one hour to remove extremely offensive content such as terrorist propaganda or images of child abuse.
Danish politicians are likely to vote on the proposals next month. They were prompted by the broadcast on Danish television of a documentary that revealed the online abuse Jespersen’s family has suffered.
The 24-year-old was traveling through Morocco’s Atlas mountains with Norwegian friend Maren Ueland, 28, when they disappeared in 2018. They were captured and killed by extremists who had pledged allegiance to Daesh. The three men involved were caught, convicted and sentenced to death in Morocco.
Within days of Jespersen’s death, her mother Helle Petersen was sent footage of the execution. She told Danmarks Radio that she had been pestered with footage of her daughter’s execution ever since. She said she has reported each instance to the police but authorities have still not identified a culprit.
Simon Kollerup, 35, the Danish trade minister responsible for internet regulation, said that Facebook’s “hopeless” response to the harassment of Jespersen’s family underscored the need for more stringent EU rules governing social media.
Martin Ruby, 48, Facebook’s head of public policy for the Nordic and Benelux regions, said he was sorry “if we made the wrong calls in this case” but added that the platform had done its best to delete the execution videos.