Facebook, Twitter, YouTube Vow to Combat Online Hate Speech in Europe

European Union Commission building
John Thys/AFP/Getty Images

European Union Commission building at the EU Headquarters in Brussels. 

Together with the European Commission, they unveil a new code of conduct designed to avoid the "spread of illegal hate speech."

Internet and social media giants Facebook, Twitter, Google's YouTube and Microsoft on Tuesday pledged to combat online hate speech in Europe as the European Union's European Commission unveiled a new code of conduct in Brussels designed to avoid the "spread of illegal hate speech."

The companies vowed to review most valid requests for removal of illegal hate speech within 24 hours and to remove or disable access if necessary.

They also promised to educate and raise awareness about the types of content not permitted under the rules and guidelines and to share best practices with one another and others.

The companies "support the European Commission and EU member states in the effort to respond to the challenge of ensuring that online platforms do not offer opportunities for illegal online hate speech to spread virally," a joint statement from the EU and the companies said. "They share, together with other platforms and social media companies, a collective responsibility and pride in promoting and facilitating freedom of expression throughout the online world."

"The recent terror attacks have reminded us of the urgent need to address illegal online hate speech," said Vera Jourova, the EU commissioner for justice, consumers, and gender equality. "Social media is unfortunately one of the tools that terrorist groups use to radicalize young people and racists use to spread violence and hatred. This agreement is an important step forward to ensure that the internet remains a place a free and democratic expression, where European values and laws are respected."

Monika Bickert, head of global policy management at Facebook, said: "With a global community of 1.6 billion people, we work hard to balance giving people the power to express themselves whilst ensuring we provide a respectful environment. As we make clear in our Community Standards, there’s no place for hate speech on Facebook. We urge people to use our reporting tools if they find content that they believe violates our standards so we can investigate."

Said Karen White, Twitter's head of public policy for Europe: "Hateful conduct has no place on Twitter, and we will continue to tackle this issue head on alongside our partners in industry and civil society. We remain committed to letting the tweets flow. However, there is a clear distinction between freedom of expression and conduct that incites violence and hate."

And Google EU public policy and government relations director Lie Junius said: “We are pleased to work with the Commission to develop co- and self-regulatory approaches to fighting hate speech online."

The code of conduct includes commitments from the tech giants to "have in place clear and effective processes to review notifications regarding illegal hate speech on their services so they can remove or disable access to such content."

Upon receipt of a valid removal notification, they promise to review such requests against their rules and community guidelines and, where necessary, national laws. The companies also pledged "to review the majority of valid notifications for removal of illegal hate speech in less than 24 hours and remove or disable access to such content, if necessary."

This article was first published by The Hollywood Reporter.