Hate speech online – EU Code of Conduct ensures swift response

The fourth evaluation on the EU Code of Conduct has been published on Monday, 4 February 2019, for Safer Internet Day (SID) 2019, demonstrating that this initiative by the European Commission (EC) delivers successful results.

The EU Code of Conduct – Fourth evaluation

IT companies are now assessing 89 per cent of flagged content within 24 hours and 72 per cent of the content deemed to be illegal hate speech is removed, compared to 40 per cent and 28 per cent respectively when the Code was first launched in 2016. However, companies need to improve their feedback to users notifying content, and provide more transparency on notices and removals.

The Code of Conduct has been delivering continuous progress, and companies are removing illegal hate speech online more and more rapidly. Yet, this does not lead to over-removal: the review made by companies is still in compliance with freedom of expression. The Code is also a step forward in that it has enabled fruitful partnerships between civil society organisations, national authorities and IT platforms on awareness raising and education activities.

Finally, four new companies have decided to join the Code of Conduct in 2018, namely Google+, Instagram, Snapchat and Dailymotion. French gaming platform Webedia has announced their participation just before SID 2019.

Andrus Ansip, European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Single Market said: "Today's evaluation shows that cooperation with companies and civil society brings results. Companies are now assessing 89% of flagged content within 24 hours, and promptly act to remove it when necessary. This is more than twice as much as compared to 2016. More importantly, the Code works because it respects freedom of expression. The internet is a place people go to share their views and find out information at the click of a button. Nobody should feel unsafe or threatened due to illegal hateful content remaining online."

Vĕra Jourová, European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, said: "Illegal hate speech online is not only a crime, it represents a threat to free speech and democratic engagement. In May 2016, I initiated the Code of conduct on online hate speech, because we urgently needed to do something about this phenomenon. Today, after two and a half years, we can say that we found the right approach and established a standard throughout Europe on how to tackle this serious issue, while fully protecting freedom of speech."

The EU Code of Conduct – Background

As a reminder, the "Code of Conduct on countering illegal hate speech online" has been presented by the EC and four major IT companies (Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube) in May 2016. Its purpose is to respond to the proliferation of racist and xenophobic hate speech online, which are deemed illegal in the EU, under the Framework Decision on Combating Racism and Xenophobia.

Along with regular monitoring exercises to evaluate the implementation of the Code of Conduct, the EC has adopted, on 28 September 2017, a Communication providing guidance to platforms on notice-and-action procedures to tackle illegal content online. In this document, the importance of countering illegal hate speech online and the need to continue working with the implementation of the Code of Conduct feature prominently.

To learn more about the EU Code of Conduct on countering illegal hate speech online, view the following EC document:

The activities of the Insafe network European Safer Internet Centres (SICs), including awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation, encompass the prevention and removal of illegal hate speech online.

Additionally, for comprehensive information about online hate speech, visit the SELMA (Social and Emotional Learning for Mutual Awareness) website.

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