The European Commission announced last year that it would be prepared to get tougher in the way it deals with fake news and disinformation. “Fake news is a direct threat to the very foundations of our democratic society,” according to the commission, which is why social media outlets and IT firms are being urged step up their efforts in removing online hate speech.
Instagram and Google Plus are the latest technology firms to commit to increasing their efforts to remove hateful content, in a wider effort across the EU to protect the public. EU justice commissioner Vera Jourova has confirmed the two companies would now join Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft in making sure offensive or potentially damaging material is removed. “The digital Wild West is over. It is time to balance the power and the responsibility of the platforms and social media giants,” she said.
Under EU guidelines, hate speech is defined as any content that has the potential to incite violence. “In principle, you can offend, you can ridicule, you can make very critical offensive remarks, you can use satiric methods and it is all allowed,” she added. The majority of the posts being removed are those which contain racism against minority groups, anti-muslim hatred and xenophobia.
The commission introduced a code of conduct that required IT firms to remove hateful content within a day of being notified. Jourova said that the speed at which these types of results are being removed has been steadily increasing since these measures were introduced. She noted that “From 28 percent in 2016, the rate of removal of online hate speech has gone up to 70 percent as of end of 2017.”
Social media companies are also taking steps to bring down the amount of time it takes them to remove hate speech from their sites. Facebook in particular have increased their efforts, recently hiring an extra 3000 staff to join the existing 4500 in removing material as quickly as possible. Due to their efforts, they are now the best performing when it comes to removing offensive content, with 89% being removed in under 24 hours.
Jourova said in an interview that she was pleased with the results being seen recently, however she noted that the commission are reluctant to involve courts and would prefer to leave it down to individual sites to regulate themselves. “We will continue to monitor this very closely and will consider additional measures if efforts are not pursued or slowed down,” she said.
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