YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Microsoft have signed the EU Hate Speech code of conduct to tackle racism and xenophobia online.
The four companies have all been involved in creating the code, which calls on organisations to review the “majority of valid notifications for removal of illegal hate speech” in less than 24 hours.
They have also agreed to strengthen partnerships with civil society organisations so that they can inform them directly about hateful conduct.
Vĕra Jourová, EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, said: “This agreement is an important step forward to ensure that the internet remains a place of free and democratic expression, where European values and laws are respected.”
The definition of hate speech covered by the code is “all conduct publicly inciting to violence or hatred directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin”.
Google’s Public Policy and Government Relations Director, Lie Junius, says: “We’re committed to giving people access to information through our services, but we have always prohibited illegal hate speech on our platforms. We have efficient systems to review valid notifications in less than 24 hours and to remove illegal content. We are pleased to work with the Commission to develop co- and self-regulatory approaches to fighting hate speech online.”
This marks the first time that the ways companies deal with hate speech online have been codified. However, this code of conduct only covers some forms of hate speech; it does not include harassment on the grounds of sexuality, gender, or disability.