By Tracey Dowdy
The European Commission, the European Union‘s executive arm, recently released data from research done as part of its “code of conduct” for social media platforms. The EC’s launched an initiative back in 2016 aimed at removing hate speech including racist and xenophobic content from online platforms. Facebook, Google, Twitter and Microsoft were among the tech companies that signed on, committing to searching out and eliminating offensive content.
“Today, after two and a half years, we can say that we found the right approach and established a standard throughout Europe on how to tackle this serious issue, while fully protecting freedom of speech,” said Vera Jourova, a European commissioner for justice, consumers and gender equality, in a press release.
The European Commission defines “hate speech” as “the public incitement to violence or hatred directed to groups or individuals on the basis of certain characteristics, including race, color, religion, descent and national or ethnic origin.”
According to the report, Facebook removed 82% of objectionable content in 2018 – up from a mere 28% back in 2016. That’s good news for the social media giant that’s been under scrutiny and attack for the volume of fake news disseminated on the platform, particularly during the last federal election. Just last week Facebook announced it had removed nearly 800 fake pages and accounts with ties to Iran.
Instagram, YouTube, and Google+ also showed significant improvement, though Twitter removed a mere 43% of illegal hate speech posted to the platform. That’s down from 45% for the same time frame in December 2017. Twitter’s director of public policy for Europe, Karen White, told CNBC that they’re reviewing 88% of all notifications received within 24 hours. “We’ve also enhanced our safety policies, tightened our reporting systems, increased transparency with users, and introduced over 70 changes to improve conversational health,” she said. “We’re doing this with a sense of urgency and commitment, and look forward to continued collaboration with the European Commission, Governments, civil society and industry.”
“Let me be very clear, the good results of this monitoring exercise don’t mean the companies are off the hook,” Vera Jorouva, European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality warned in a press conference. “We will continue to monitor this very closely, and we can always consider additional measures if efforts slow down. It is time to balance the power and the responsibility of the platforms and social media giants.”
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.