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Social media giants making progress on hate speech, EU reports

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Social media giants making progress on hate speech, EU reports

Photo © Anatoly Vartanov - Fotolia

(BRUSSELS) - A code of conduct on countering illegal hate speech online, signed by the EU and four major social media platforms a year ago, has delivered some important progress, the EU reported on Thursday.

The code included a series of commitments by Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft to combat the spread of such content in Europe. The evaluation, which was carried out by NGOs and public bodies in 24 EU Member States shows that the companies have made significant progress in following up on their commitments.

"The results of our second evaluation of the Code of Conduct are encouraging," said Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova: "The companies are now removing twice as many cases of illegal hate speech and at a faster rate when compared to six months ago."

However, she said companies bore an important responsibility and further progress was needed if they were to deliver on all the commitments in the coded of conduct.

By signing the Code of Conduct, the IT companies committed in particular to reviewing the majority of valid notifications of illegal hate speech in less than 24 hours and to removing or disabling access to such content, if necessary, on the basis of national laws transposing European law. The Code also underlined the need to further discuss how to promote transparency and encourage counter and alternative narratives.

These are some of the results of the report:

  • On average,in 59% of the cases, the IT companies responded to notifications concerning illegal hate speech by removing the content. This is more than twice the level of 28% that was recorded six months earlier.
  • The amount of notifications reviewed within 24 hours improved from 40% to 51% in the same six months period. Facebook is however the only company that fully achieves the target of reviewing the majority of notifications within the day.
  • As compared with the situation six months ago the IT companies have become better at treating notifications coming from citizens in the same way as those coming from organisations which use trusted reporters channels. Still, some differences persist and the overall removal rates remain lower when a notification originates from the public.
  • Finally, the monitoring showed that while Facebook sends systematic feedback to users on how their notifications have been assessed, practices differed considerably among the IT companies. Quality of feedback motivating the decision is an area where further progress can be made.

Within the last year, the IT companies have strengthened their reporting systems and made it easier to report hate speech. They have trained their staff and they have increased their cooperation with civil society. The implementation of the Code of Conduct has strengthened and enlarged the IT companies' network of trusted flaggers throughout Europe.

The increased cooperation with civil society organisations has led to a higher quality of notifications, more effective handling times and better results in terms of reactions to the notifications.

The Commission says it will continue to monitor the implementation of the Code of conduct with the help of civil society organisations. It is expecting improvements by IT companies in particular on transparency of the criteria for analysing flagged content and feedback to users.

The Commission will now take the results of this evaluation into account as part of the work announced in its mid-term review on the implementation of the Digital Single Market Strategy. It will also continue its work to promote more efficient cooperation between the IT companies and national authorities.

A recent European survey showed that 75% of those following or participating in debates online had come across episodes of abuse, threat or hate speech. Almost half of these respondents said that this deterred them from engaging in online discussions.

Code of Conduct on countering illegal online hate speech 2nd monitoring - questions & answers

Code of Conduct on countering hate speech online

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