European Commission: Internet giants must combat hatred more
The European Commission has warned Internet companies such as Facebook and YouTube that they must expend more effort to combat hatred online because they are too slow at removing racist posts, news server EurActiv.cz reports. If they do not improve, the Commission is prepared to adopt norms that will legally force them to change their approach, according to EurActiv.cz.
The firms must especially focus on removing hateful content faster. The companies themselves pledged half a year ago to combat hate speech.
At the end of May, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube signed an agreement (a so-called code of conduct) according to which they must more strictly supervise social networking sites to combat hate speech, EurActiv.cz reports. Allegedly, these companies must take appropriate measures within 24 hours of a hateful post being reported to them.
According to EurActiv.cz, such measures mainly involve removing such content or blocking access to it, but another component of the code is a pledge to cooperate more closely with civil society organizations and to increase efforts to combat hate speech on the Internet. Half a year has passed since the agreement was concluded, and EurActiv.cz reports that the European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Věra Jourová of the Czech Republic, who was behind the creation of the agreement, ordered a study of its fulfillment.
The European Commission is not satisfied with the outcome of how the companies have been upholding their own code. They reportedly are not fulfilling the established turnaround time for erasing objectionable content and are able to research just 40 % of the posts reported to them within 24 hours and only 80 % of such content within 48 hours.
The fastest performer is allegedly YouTube and the slowest is Twitter, reports news server zive.cz. "If Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Microsoft want to convince me and all the individual ministries that a non-legislative approach can function, they will have to take fast action and show more effort in the months to come," the Justice Commissioner told the British daily Financial Times.
EurActiv.cz also reports that the ethics code is just one of a series of measures thanks to which the Internet giants are doing their best to cope with hateful or racist content on their web pages. Other examples are said to be the creation of instruments through which Internet users can supposedly file a report about objectionable content, or mandatory training for the employees who analyze the posts reported.
The Commission's report, according to EurActiv.cz, also warns of other problems, such as a great disproportion in outcomes between various countries of the EU when it comes to removing racist posts from Internet pages. For example, in France and Germany as much as 50 % of hateful content is regularly removed, while in Austria just 11 % is removed and in Italy only 4 % is removed.
The Justice Ministers of EU Member States will meet in Brussels on Thursday and their agenda includes discussing this report, according to EurActiv.cz. Reportedly it is also anticipated that the ministers will want to clarify with the Internet companies the question of combating terrorist propaganda online and aid with providing evidence during the trials of foreign-born militants.
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