The announcement was made in Brussels, Belgium Tuesday, according to a press release that outlined the step that will be taken by the IT companies and EU authorities in accordance with relevant national laws.
EU governments have been working to get social platforms to crack down on the growing online racism following the refugee crisis and terrorist attacks. A few countries have even gone so far as to threaten legal action against some of the companies, reports Reuters.
According to the agreement reached between the tech companies and the EU commission, the majority of valid requests for the removal of online hate speech will be reviewed within 24 hours of receipt of the notification, with the content removed or access to the content being disabled.
The tech companies will also strengthen their bond with civil organizations who help to flag inappropriate and hateful content when it goes online, instead promoting “counter-narratives” to hate speech. Twitter’s Head of Public Policy for Europe, Karen White, summed it up best. She commented:
“Hateful conduct has no place on Twitter and we will continue to tackle this issue head on alongside our partners in industry and civil society. We remain committed to letting the Tweets flow. However, there is a clear distinction between freedom of expression and conduct that incites violence and hate. In tandem with actioning hateful conduct that breaches Twitter’s Rules, we also leverage the platform’s incredible capabilities to empower positive voices, to challenge prejudice and to tackle the deeper root causes of intolerance.”
Germany has been dealing with the growing amount of racism or xenophobia in their country, talking with Facebook for some time, reports the Verge. The talks ended up several weeks ago with Facebook, Twitter, and Google agreeing to remove hate speech from their platforms within 24 hours in Germany.
The Code of Conduct and the Right to Free Speech
Basically, the EU wants tech companies to take on added responsibility in cracking down on racist and just plain old hate speech on the Internet, labeling this as “illegal content.” There are concerns over free speech, and in particular how the Code of Conduct was formulated.
Brussels-based European Digital Rights (EDRi), along with Access Now, an international rights group, issued a joint statement that criticized the code of conduct on Tuesday, saying the commission tasked tech companies to do the job of law enforcement.
“In short, the ‘code of conduct’ downgrades the law to a second-class status, behind the ‘leading role’ of private companies that are being asked to arbitrarily implement their terms of service,” the joint statement reads. “This process, established outside an accountable democratic framework, exploits unclear liability rules for companies. It also creates serious risks for freedom of expression as legal but controversial content may well be deleted as a result of this voluntary and unaccountable take down mechanism.”