Insights European Commission says its initiative with social media platforms and civil society is showing progress


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, now shows that the companies have made significant progress in following up on their commitments.

The Commission says that the EU and its Member States, together with social media companies and other platforms, have a responsibility to act so that the internet does not become “a free haven for illegal hate speech and violence.

By signing the Code of Conduct, the platforms committed in particular to reviewing the majority of valid notifications of illegal hate speech in fewer than 24 hours and to removing or disabling access to such content, if necessary, on the basis of national laws transposing European law. The Code also underlined the need to further discuss how to promote transparency and encourage counter and alternative narratives.

One year after its adoption, the Commission says that the Code of Conduct on countering illegal hate speech online has delivered some important progress, while some challenges remain:

  • on average, in 59% of the 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 number of notifications reviewed within 24 hours improved from 40% to 51% in the same six months period;
  • compared with the situation six months ago, the platforms have become better at treating notifications coming from citizens in the same way as those coming from organisations which use trusted reporters channels. Still, some differences persist and the overall removal rates remain lower when a notification originates from the public;
  • the monitoring showed that practices differed considerably among the platforms in terms of sending systematic feedback to users on how their notifications have been assessed. The quality of feedback is an area where further progress can be made.

In general, 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.

The Commission says that 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 the notifications.

The Commission says that it will continue to monitor the implementation of the Code of conduct with the help of civil society organisations. Improvements are expected by the platforms in particular on transparency of the criteria for analysing flagged content and feedback to users.

The Commission will take the results of this evaluation into account as part of its implementation of the Digital Single Market Strategy. The Commission will also continue its work to promote more efficient cooperation between the platforms and national authorities. To read the Commission’s press release in full, click here.