EU and tech firms build 'code of conduct' to fight online hate speech

The European Union (EU) has drafted an online “code of conduct” to address “illegal online hate speech” on social media networks across Europe. Major internet companies Microsoft, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter are in support and involved in the creation of the new code.

The code asks the technology firms to review the “majority of valid notifications for removal of illegal hate speech” in less than 24 hours and make it easier for law enforcement to directly notify them. They must also help educate users on acceptable behaviour.

The tech giants also agreed to work more closely with groups that monitor and bring attention to violent and hateful content. “Counter narratives” will also be developed and promoted to challenge those who post hate speech or illegal content.

“The recent terror attacks [Paris and Brussels] 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 racist use to spread violence and hatred,” said Vĕra Jourová, EU commissioner for justice. “This agreement is an important step forward to ensure that the internet remains a place of free and democratic expression, where European values and laws are respected.”

The European Commission will assess public commitments in the code on a regular basis, including their impact. Regular meetings will take place and a preliminary assessment will be reported on combating racism, xenophobia and all intolerance by the end of 2016. 

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