Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Microsoft are putting in writing their commitment to combat the spread of hate speech in Europe.
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The tech giants signed a new EU code of conduct, promising to wipe illegal hate speech from their sites in less than 24 hours, the European Commission announced Tuesday. As part of the agreement, the companies have promised to review hate speech notifications and, if necessary, remove or disable the illegal content within a day. That includes any content that "promotes incitement to violence and hateful conduct."
For Facebook and its peers, tackling this issue requires striking a balance between giving users the freedom to express themselves, while providing a respectful environment for everyone, the social network's Head of Global Policy Management, Monika Bickert, said in a statement.
"There's no place for hate speech on Facebook," Bickert wrote. "We urge people to use our reporting tools if they find content that they believe violates our standards so we can investigate."
Hate speech has been a major problem on Twitter, in particular, where trolls hide behind anonymous accounts to hurl insults and threats, particularly at women. Last year, former CEO Dick Costolo admitted that "we suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we've sucked at it for years." The company has since set up a new Trust & Safety Council and streamlined the process of reporting harassment to help address the issue.
In a statement Tuesday, Twitter's Head of Public Policy for Europe, Karen White, said the service "will continue to tackle this issue head on."
"We remain committed to letting the Tweets flow," White said. "However, there is a clear distinction between freedom of expression and conduct that incites violence and hate."
Meanwhile, Google's Public Policy and Government Relations Director, Lie Junius, echoed those sentiments, adding that the Web giant already has systems in place to review hate speech notifications and remove illegal content in less than 24 hours.
"We're committed to giving people access to information through our services, but we have always prohibited illegal hate speech on our platforms," Junius said. "We are pleased to work with the Commission to develop co- and self-regulatory approaches to fighting hate speech online."
For its part, Microsoft recently released a new set of guidelines and policies for how the company treats terrorism-related content on any of its properties. The company now explicitly prohibits terrorist content on its consumer services and has a new online reporting tool for flagging this kind of content.