EU To Draft Laws Against Online Hate Speeches

December 6
6:23 AM 2016

European (EU) lawmakers accused Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Microsoft of dragging their feet when it comes to combating online hate speech, and threatened to pass new laws if the companies do not make good on their promise to remove hateful comments within 24 hours.

A report from the EU Justice Commission found that the four companies only review 40 percent of hate speech reports within 24 hours, Reuters reports. Six months ago, they agreed to a voluntary code of conduct to take action in Europe within 24 hours, and EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova said that shorter response times are possible.

"After 48 hours the figure is more than 80 percent. This shows that the target can realistically be achieved, but this will need much stronger efforts by the IT companies," she told Reuters. She did not set a deadline for improvements, but the Justice Commission is considering new laws that would force quicker action.

Facebook, which has also been criticized in the US in recent weeks for failing to remove fake news stories and links to hoaxes, has long pledged to corral hate speech in Europe. The company launched a "broad campaign" to encourage more civil discourse online in Germany in 2015, and announced in January that it would spend more than $1 million to fight online extremism.

But advocacy groups have criticized those efforts. In France, two organizations announced plans in May to sue Facebook, Twitter, and Google for failing to remove racist, homophobic, and other hateful posts from their platforms. A law passed in 2004 requires websites in France to remove content that is "manifestly illicit" in a timely manner if they know about it. Twitter removed just 4 percent of the offending posts during the groups' monitoring, while Google-owned YouTube and Facebook did only slightly better.

The Justice Commission's report found similar results in some countries, though they vary widely, Reuters reports. The removal rate of racist posts in Germany and France was above 50 percent, but just 11 percent in Austria and 4 percent in Italy.

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