HomeInsightsEuropean Commission initiative with social media platforms shows progress

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One year ago, the European Commission and four major social media platforms announced a Code of Conduct on countering illegal online hate speech. It included a series of commitments by Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft to combat the spread of such content in Europe. An evaluation carried out by NGOs and public bodies in 24 Member States, released on the first anniversary of the Code of Conduct, shows that significant progress in following up on their commitments has been made.

The Commission says that by signing the Code of Conduct, social media platforms committed to reviewing the majority of valid notifications of illegal hate speech in less than 24 hours and to removing or disabling access to such content, if necessary, on the basis of national laws implementing European law. The Code also underlined the need to discuss further how to promote transparency.

One year after its adoption, while challenges remain, the Code of Conduct has delivered some important progress:

  • on average, in 59% of cases, the platforms responded to notifications concerning illegal hate speech by removing the content. This is more than twice the level of 28% that was recorded six months earlier;
  • the amount of notifications reviewed within 24 hours increased from 40% to 51% in the same six-month period. Facebook met the target of reviewing the majority of notifications within 24 hours;
  • the platforms are better at treating notifications from citizens in the same way as those from organisations that use trusted reporting channels. However, some differences persist and the overall removal rates remain lower when a notification originates from a member of the public; and
  • monitoring showed that while Facebook sends systematic feedback to users on how their notifications have been assessed, practices differed considerably among the platforms. This is an area where further progress can be made.

Overall, the platforms have strengthened their reporting systems and made it easier to report hate speech. They have trained their staff and they have increased their cooperation with civil society. The implementation of the Code of Conduct has strengthened and enlarged the platforms’ network of trusted flaggers throughout Europe. Further, the increased cooperation with civil society organisations has led to a higher quality of notifications, more effective handling times and better results in terms of reactions to notifications.

The Commission says that it will continue to monitor implementation of the Code of Conduct. To read the Commission’s press release in full, click here.