A new code of conduct has been accepted by Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and YouTube which means the sites would have to review (and potentially remove) the majority of content flagged as hate speech within 24 hours.
The new rules, announced on 31 May by the European Commission, are designed to combat hate speech and terrorist propaganda across the EU and also require the sites to find and highlight "independent counter-narratives" to hate speech and propaganda published online.
As reported by The Verge, terrorist attacks in Brussels and Paris as well as racial tensions stemmed from the refugee crisis prompted the call — which is the first of its kind in the EU — to curb hate speech on social platforms.
"The recent terror attacks have reminded us of the urgent need to address illegal online hate speech," said the EU commissioner for justice, consumers, and gender equality Vĕra Jourová in a statement. "Social media is unfortunately one of the tools that terrorist groups use to radicalise young people and to spread violence and hatred."
"We’re committed to giving people access to information through our services, but we have always prohibited illegal hate speech on our platforms," said Google's head of public policy and government relations, Lie Junius, in a statement.
"We have efficient systems to review valid notifications in less than 24 hours and to remove illegal content. We are pleased to work with the Commission to develop co- and self-regulatory approaches to fighting hate speech online."
Although Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, and YouTube have agreed to the regulations, not everyone is happy about them. Digital advocacy and International rights groups European Digital Rights and Access Now said the code of conduct creates serious risks for freedom of expression, as legal (but controversial) content may well be deleted.
There are also concerns that the rules delegates tasks to private companies that should be carried out by law enforcement.
Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube in a joint statement said removing illegal hate speech, whilst "still allowing for the free flow of information across their platforms" is the end goal.