On Sunday, the European Commission warned Facebook, Twitter, Google, YouTube and Microsoft that if the companies do not address their hate speech problems, the EU will enact legislation that will force them to do so.
In May, those five companies voluntarily signed a code of conduct to fight illegal hate speech on their platforms within 24 hours. The EU asked that companies be willing to disable or remove content from their platforms and if necessary, to promote “‘counter-narratives’ to hate speech,” Reuters reported. But on Sunday, the European Commission revealed that the companies were not complying with this code in a satisfactory manner.
“In practice the companies take longer and do not yet achieve this goal. They only reviewed 40 per cent of the recorded cases in less than 24 hours,” a Commission official told Reuters. The Commission’s report found that YouTube responded to reports of harassment the fastest, and unsurprisingly, Twitter found itself in last place.
“If Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Microsoft want to convince me and the ministers that the non-legislative approach can work, they will have to act quickly and make a strong effort in the coming months,” Jourová told the Financial Times on Sunday.
Unlike the United States, freedom of speech is not a fundamental right in Europe, and the EU has hate speech laws that it wants to enforce online. The European Union defined hate speech in this code as “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.”
Vĕra Jourová, the EU commissioner for justice, told reporters in May that the attacks in Brussels and Paris triggered the creation of the code of conduct. “This agreement is an important step forward to ensure that the internet remains a place of free and democratic expression,” she said. “Where European values and laws are respected.”
The Commission’s justice ministers will meet in Brussels on Thursday to discuss the report.