HomeInsightsEuropean Commission says its hate speech initiative shows continued improvement, as more platforms join

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The Commission says that the third evaluation of the Code of Conduct on countering illegal online hate speech carried out by NGOs and public bodies shows that IT companies removed on average 70% of illegal hate speech notified to them.

The Commission explains that since May 2016, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft have committed to combatting the spread of such content in Europe through the Code of Conduct. The third monitoring round shows that the companies are now increasingly fulfilling their commitment to remove the majority of illegal hate speech within 24 hours. However, the Commission says, some further challenges still remain, in particular the lack of systematic feedback to users.

Google+ has announced that it is also joining the Code of Conduct, and Facebook confirmed that Instagram would as well.

The Commission says that since its adoption in May 2016, the Code of Conduct has delivered steady progress in the removal of notified illegal content:

  • on average, IT companies removed 70% of all the illegal hate speech notified to them by the NGOs and public bodies participating in the evaluation. This rate has steadily increased from 28% in the first monitoring round in 2016 and 59% in the second monitoring exercise in May 2017; and
  • all participating IT Companies fully meet the target of reviewing the majority of notifications within 24 hours, reaching an average of more than 81%. This figure has doubled compared to the first monitoring round and increased from 51% of notifications assessed within 24 hours registered in the previous monitoring round.

While the main commitments in the Code of Conduct have been fulfilled, further improvements need to be achieved in the following areas:

  • feedback to users is still lacking for nearly a third of notifications on average, with different response rates from different IT Companies. Transparency and feedback to users is an area where further improvements should be made; and
  • the Code of Conduct complements legislation fighting racism and xenophobia which requires authors of illegal hate speech offences, whether online or offline, to be effectively prosecuted. On average, one in five cases reported to companies were also reported by NGOs to the police or prosecutors. This figure has more than doubled since the last monitoring report. Such cases need to be promptly investigated by the police, the Commission says. The Commission has provided a network for cooperation and for the exchange of good practices for national authorities, civil society and companies, as well as targeted financial support and operational guidance. About two thirds of the Member States now have in place a national contact point responsible for online hate speech. A dedicated dialogue between competent Member State authorities and IT Companies is envisaged for spring 2018.

The Commission says that it will continue to monitor regularly the implementation of the Code by the participating IT Companies with the help of civil society organisations and aims at widening it to further online platforms. The Commission will consider additional measures if efforts are not pursued or slow down. To read the Commission’s press release in full, click here.

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