Facebook, Twitter, YouTube praised for “steady progress” quashing illegal hate speech in Europe

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube praised for “steady progress” quashing illegal hate speech in Europe
From TechCrunch - January 19, 2018

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are likely to be breathing a little easier in Europe after getting a pat on the back from regional lawmakers for making steady progress on removing illegal hate speech.

Last week the European Commission warned it could still draw up legislation to try to ensure illegal content is removed from online platforms if tech firms do not step up their efforts.

Germany has already done so for, implementing a regime of fines of up to 50M for social media firms that fail to promptly remove illegal hate speech, though the EC is generally eyeing a wider mix of illegal content when it talks tough on this topicincluding terrorist propaganda and even copyrighted material.

Today, on the specific issue of illegal hate speech on social media, it was sounding happy with the current voluntary approach. It also announced that two more social media platformsInstagram and Google+have joined the program.

In 2016 Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft signed up to a regional Code of Conduct on illegal hate speech, committing to review the majority of reported hate speech within 24 hours andfor valid reportsremove posts within that timeframe too.

The Commission has been monitoring their progress on social media hate speech, specifically to see whether they are living up to what they agreed in the Code of Conduct.

Today it gave the findings from its third reviewreporting that the companies are removing 70 per cent of notified illegal hate speech on average, up from 59 per cent in the second evaluation, and 28 per cent when their performance was first assessed in 2016.

Last year, Facebook and YouTube announced big boosts to the number of staff dealing with safety and content moderation issues on their platforms, following a series of content scandals and a cranking up of political pressure (which, despite the Commission giving a good report now, has not let up in every EU Member State).

Also under fire over hate speech on its platform last year,Twitterbroadened its policies around hateful conduct and abusive behaviorenforcing the more expansive policies from December.

Asked during a press conference whether the EC would now be less likely to propose hate speech legislation for social media platforms, Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality commissioner Vra Jourov replied in the affirmative.

Yes, she said. Now I see this as more probable that we will proposealso to the ministers of justice and all the stakeholders and within the Commissionthat we want to continue this [voluntary] approach.

Though the commissioner also emphasized she was not talking about other types of censured online content, such as terrorist propaganda and fake news. (On the latter, for instance, Frances president said last monthhe will introduce an anti-fake news election law aimed at combating malicious disinformation campaigns.)

With the wider aspects of platforms we are looking at coming forward with more specific steps which could be taken to tighten up the response to all types of illegal content before the Commission reaches a decision on whether legislation will be required, Jourov added.

She noted that some Member States justice ministers are open to a new EU-level law on social media and hate speechin the event they judge the voluntary approach to have failedbut said other ministers take a hands off view on the issue.

Having these quite positive results of this third assessment I will be stronger in promoting my view that we should continue the way of doing this through the Code of Conduct, she added.


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