The European Commission along with several tech giants– Facebook, Twitter, Google’s YouTube and Microsoft, announced today a new code of conduct to remove hate speech according to community guidelines in less than 24 hours across the aforementioned social media platforms.
The effort has been going on for several months, across Europe, to rid the Internet, especially social media, of content that has been spreading negativity like racism, hate, antisemitism and xenophobia. This crisis has been increasing online rapidly for the past couple of years.
Tech companies have always been about promoting freedom of expression. This meant many platforms do not tend to delete content, even if it’s hate promoting, unless it is copyright material. This still didn’t stop Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft from officially pledging to the EU against hate speech.
We saw many steps taken by the companies in the past. They were baby-steps towards the now formal code of conduct. Twitter had taken down 125,000 accounts related to ISIS since mid-2015. Facebook had agreed to work with the German government against hateful speech way back in September 2015. Google and Twitter, in December 2015 joined Facebook to support the German government.
The companies stated that they will now dedicate teams that will review flagged items. If found against the code of conduct, these items will be deleted. They have also taken an oath to educate their users against hateful content and promote them in flagging content they find hateful. Inter-platform cooperation will also be one of the key features of the new pledge.
The announcement reads:
In order to prevent the spread of illegal hate speech, it is essential to ensure that relevant national laws transposing the Council Framework Decision on combating racism and xenophobia are fully enforced by Member States in the online as well as the in the offline environment. While the effective application of provisions criminalising hate speech is dependent on a robust system of enforcement of criminal law sanctions against the individual perpetrators of hate speech, this work must be complemented with actions geared at ensuring that illegal hate speech online is expeditiously reviewed by online intermediaries and social media platforms, upon receipt of a valid notification, in an appropriate time-frame. To be considered valid in this respect, a notification should not be insufficiently precise or inadequately substantiated.