By Lauren Biszewski, Esq.
Four major internet companies have signed a landmark “code of conduct” aimed fighting hate speech in the EU. In an effort to combat racism and xenophobia across Europe, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and YouTube have pledged to take quick action as soon as a valid notification is received.
Rather than creating a legally binding document and in light of EU legislation already covering many of its policies, the Code creates public commitments for the companies to target, address, and promptly remove illegal hate speech.
The promulgation of the code was headed by, Vĕra Jourová, the EU commissioner for justice, consumers and gender equality.
Against the backdrop of recent attacks on the Continent, Jourová emphasized the importance of social media as a tool to radicalize European youth. “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.”
The document tailors the definition of hate speech to include “all conduct publicly inciting to violence or hatred directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin”.
The Code also protects freedom of expression, which covers “not only… ‘information’ or ‘ideas’ that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive or as a matter of indifference, but also to those that offend, shock or disturb the state or any sector of the population”.
According to The Guardian, “The code of conduct represents the first major attempt to codify how technology firms should respond to hate speech online. But the limited scope leaves many aspects of online abuse still uncovered: harassment on gender grounds, for instance, is not considered hate speech according to the code of conduct.”