Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Microsoft (“the IT companies”) have joined forces with the European Commission in order to fight against illegal hate speech online in Europe. The IT Companies acknowledged a collective responsibility to promote and facilitate freedom of expression. However, they also recognized the existence of online hate speech and the negative effects this produces on individuals and collective groups. Hate speech runs counter to democratic discourse, which is a pillar of online platforms. The European Commission pointed out that national laws on the Framework Decision on combating racism and xenophobia must be fully enforced by Member States.
A code of conduct has been signed by the IT Companies as an effort to continue to tackle problems arising from hate speech online. The code of conduct includes the following public commitments by the IT Companies:
- The removal of illegal hate speech should be reviewed in less than 24 hours, and such content should be removed or disabled;
- Developing internal procedures and staff training;
- Having in place clear and effective processes to review notifications regarding online hate speech by implementing Rules or Community Guidelines outlining the prohibition of any promotion of incitement to violence and hateful conduct;
- Educating users about the typed of content permitted under their rules and Community guidelines and promoting awareness;
- Publishing procedures for submitting notices in order to increase efficiency in the communication between Member State authorities and the IT Companies;
- Encouraging the provision of notices and flagging off content that promotes incitement to violence and hateful conduct; and
- Increasing efforts for cooperation between themselves and other social media companies and online platforms in order to ensure best practice sharing.
Vĕra Jourová, EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, said: “The recent terror attacks have reminded us of the urgent need to address illegal online hate speech. Social media is unfortunately one of the tools that terrorist groups use to radicalise young people and racists use to spread violence and hatred.” She stressed on the importance of this agreement in order to protect the internet as a place of freedom and democratic expression, and ensuring that European values and laws are respected.