EU Calls on Tech Firms to Strengthen Anti-hate Speech Tools

Tim Maytom

yogaThe European Commission on Justice is set to call on tech giants including Facebook, Microsoft, YouTube and Twitter to improve their reaction times when tackling online hate speech, or face laws which force them to do so.

A new report ordered by the EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourová has looked into the industry's anti-hate speech tools six months after the companies in question signed up to a voluntary code of conduct regarding abuse and hate speech on their platforms.

The code of conduct promised that hate speech would be reviewed and removed within 24 hours, and was brought into place to address rising concerns that followed the refugee crisis in the Middle East and Europe, as well as terror attacks across the region.

The code of conduct also promised better cooperation with civil society organisations, the promotion of 'counter-narratives' to hate speech, and, if necessary, disabling access to repeat offenders.

However, figures provided to Mobile Marketing Magazine by a Commission official showed that only 40 per cent of cases were reviewed within 24 hours, with 17 per cent taking longer than 48 hours to address.

The report also found strong differences between results in different member states, with removal rates for hate speech about 50 per cent in Germany and France, but as low as 11 per cent in Austria and four per cent in Italy.

During the period covered, 23.7 per cent of the content tech firms were notified about was antisemitic in nature, while 20.2 per cent was anti-Muslim. 9.5 per cent was based on ethnic origin, 21 per cent on national origin and 11.7 per cent on race.

The full report is due to be published on Wednesday ahead of a meeting by the high level group on combating racism and xenophobia, where Commissioner Jourová will discuss the results with tech companies and other stakeholders. The following day, she will discuss the results with the Justice Council of the European Commission.