EU gives technology companies three months to improve the way they handle online hate speech

In recent months, online technology companies have been facing increasing pressure from the EU to step up their efforts to combat online hate speech on their sites. Although progress has been made in this area, the European Commission has now announced that it will be giving sites like YouTube, Google and Facebook new targets for the speed that they remove this type of content. These firms have now been given a three month deadline to show they are making enough progress in removing extremist content faster.

The commission has said that ideally, firms should be aiming to remove the content within an hour of being notified in order to adequately protect the public. The recommendations also set out guidelines on how companies should act to remove both hate speech and other illegal content – and has urged that a swift reaction to extremist material should be taken at all times. Digital commissioner Andrus Ansip said: “While several platforms have been removing more illegal content than ever before … we still need to react faster against terrorist propaganda and other illegal content which is a serious threat to our citizens’ security, safety and fundamental rights.”

The three month deadline might be considered extreme, but due to the urgency of the issue and the fact European governments have said extremist content has influenced “lone-wolf attackers”, it’s crucial that action is taken sooner rather than later. After the three months, social media sites will be asked to show evidence of the improvements that have been made, and the commission will then assess if there’s any need for legislation to be put in place.

The EU has also urged that the technology sector, which is predominantly US based, to take a much more proactive approach in the way it deals with illegal content in general. For example, the use of automated systems to detect any hate speech has shown to be an effective way of dealing with the issue and removing the content. According to Hany Farid, professor and chair of the Department of Computer Science at Dartmouth College.“The EU is leading on the issue of reining in online abuses and the US and others should pay close attention and support the EU’s efforts with similar calls to action.”

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