In response to pressure from the European Union to do more to tackle the issue, both the speed and number of removals of hate speech on their platforms have been sped up by social media companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google’s YouTube, showed the results of an EU evaluation.
A code of conduct was agreed to in December by the European Commission, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube and Facebook won particular praise for reviewing most complaints within a 24-hour target timeframe set down in the code.
The proportion of offending items taken down had doubled and action was being taken more quickly than when the EU checked six months ago, Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova said, calling the results “encouraging” for the Commission’s push for self-regulation.
“This … shows that a self-regulatory approach can work, if all actors do their part. At the same time, companies … need to make further progress to deliver on all the commitments,” Jourova said in a statement, adding that firms should provide more feedback to people who brought abuses to their attention.
Twitter and YouTube lagged behind Facebook which scored highly on this.
Following rising concerns about the proliferation of racist and xenophobic content on social media triggered by the refugee crisis and attacks in Western Europe, the voluntary code of conduct obliges firms to take action in Europe within 24 hours.
The promotion of “counter-narratives” to hate speech, better cooperation with civil society organizations and removing or disabling access to the content if necessary, are included in this.
According to the report, up from 50 percent in December, Facebook assessed notifications of hateful content in less than 24 hours in 58 percent of cases.
As opposed to 23.5 percent in December, when the Commission first reviewed the companies’ progress and warned them they were being too slow, Twitter also sped up its dealing with notifications, reviewing 39 percent of them in less than 24 hours.
On the other hand, the results showed that from 60.8 percent in December, YouTube actually slowed down, reviewing 42.6 percent of notifications in less than 24 hours.
“IT companies have all been improving time and response to notifications on manifest illegal hate speech,” Jourova said at a meeting of the EU High Level Group on combating racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance on Wednesday.
“There are differences among the companies … but we can objectively say that all have improved.”
the number of removals were significantly increased by all the companies. On the overall, more than doubling the rate in December which was 28.2 percent, content was removed in 59.2 percent of cases.
As the companies face the prospect of legislation at both EU and national level, pressure on the companies to remove the content swiftly has been increased by the proliferation of hate speech on social media.
while the German government approved a plan in April to fine companies up to 50 million euros if they fail to remove hateful postings quickly, EU ministers approved plans last week to force social networks to take measures to block videos with hateful content.
Including expressions of hatred against migrants and refugees, together with anti-Muslim hatred, followed by ethnic origin, the most common ground of hate speech the Commission identified was xenophobia.
(Adapted from Reuters)