The media's freedom to publish unmoderated comments from readers on internet message boards is facing a new threat from the European Commission.
An EC document, called A Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe floats the idea of website operators having a 'duty of care' to their users.
If introduced, it could required web editors to proactively monitor, judge and remove illegal content, and would change many websites' working practices as well as stifling discussion.
The document says the Commission will analyse … "whether to require intermediaries to exercise greater responsibility and due diligence in the way they manage their networks and systems – a duty of care."
The EC plans to launch a "comprehensive asessment" on the issue before the end of this year.
The strategy document envisages the EU introducing legislation next year to create a single digital market for Europe. The report also includes plans to complete reform copyright law.
Although it aims to free up European's economy, is also envisages stricter regulation, with the state playing a bigger role.
The publication of the strategy comes alongside a recent decision by the European Court of Human Rights which is likely to make online news providers liable for unlawful user comments on their message boards. See me blog from two weeks ago
The ECHR's surprise decision in the case Delfi v Estonia appears to specifically target news websites. The Grand Chamber said its ruling does not affect discussion forums, bulletin boards, and social media … “where the platform provider does not offer any content.” In other words, it makea a clear distinction between media messages boards and everyone else.
These developments, taken together, indicate that the era of non-moderation for news websites is rapidly drawing to an end.