New code of conduct for IT companies fighting hate speech

In line with recent activity of the European Commission on combating hate speech and the spread of terrorist material and exploitation on communication channels, as well as protecting the freedom of speech, a new code of conduct for companies fighting hate speech was announced in May 2016.

As stated in the European Commission's press release, by signing the code of conduct, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft  - referred to as IT companies, "commit to continuing their efforts to tackle illegal hate speech online. This will include the continued development of internal procedures and staff training to guarantee that they review the majority of valid notifications for removal of illegal hate speech in less than 24 hours and remove or disable access to such content, if necessary."
 
Moreover, the press release also indicates various pledges of the IT companies presented in the code of conduct, such as:
  • To review notifications regarding illegal hate speech on their services so they can remove or disable access to such content.
  • To educate and raise awareness with their users about the types of content not permitted under their rules and community guidelines.
  • To provide information on the procedures for submitting notices, with a view to improving the speed and effectiveness of communication between the Member State authorities and the IT Companies. 
  • To encourage the provision of notices and flagging of content that promotes incitement to violence and hateful conduct at scale by experts. 
  • To provide regular training to their staff on current societal developments and to exchange views on the potential for further improvement.
  • To intensify cooperation between themselves and other platforms and social media companies to enhance best practice sharing.
Prompt reactions tackling online hate speech have been a key focus for the European Commission in the past months, especially after the recent terrorist attacks in Europe and considering the spread of online extremism and radicalisation among young people.
 
The dialogue with IT companies to fight against hate speech was initiated following the EU Colloquium on Fundamental Rights in October 2015, and picked up upon in December 2015 by the EU Internet Forum in a bid to protect the public from the spread of terrorist material, and terrorist exploitation of communication channels to facilitate and direct their activities. 
 
Furthermore, the European Commission will continue to promote the adherence to this code of conduct to other relevant platforms and social media companies also.
 
The ‘Code of conduct on countering illegal hate speech online' can be found on the European Commission website.

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