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Hate speech: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube sign up to new EU code

Published 03/06/2016

EU hate speech code: Terror attacks in Belgium were cited as a key reason a clampdown
EU hate speech code: Terror attacks in Belgium were cited as a key reason a clampdown

YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft have agreed to a new code of conduct drafted by the EU that commits to combating online hate speech.

The European Commission announced that the code, which it created alongside the technology giants, includes a pledge by the companies to review all reports of abuse within 24 hours, as well as do more to clamp down on illegal and xenophobic content.

The recent terror attacks in Belgium were cited as a key reason a clampdown has become more urgent as a means of combating extremism.

Vera Jourova, the EU commissioner for justice, consumers and gender equality, said: "The recent terror attacks have reminded us of the urgent need to address illegal online hate speech.

"Social media is unfortunately one of the tools that terrorist groups use to radicalise 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 of free and democratic expression, where European values and laws are respected."

Threats of violence also remain a key issue for social media - Labour MP Jess Phillips told the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme she had received around 5,000 abusive and threatening messages from Twitter users, many citing rape, after launching a campaign against cyber bullying.

In signing up both Twitter and Facebook - which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp - the most popular social media sites in Europe are all part of the new code agreement, which also includes pledges to educate and raise awareness among users about what constitutes abusive content.

"I welcome the commitment of worldwide IT companies 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," added Ms Jourova.

Karen White, Twitter's head of public policy for Europe, said: "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."

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