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Europe Moves Ahead With Internet Censorship Enforcement As More Platforms Join

The European Commission has announced that its efforts to censor the Internet and purge it of “illegal hate speech” have shown “improvement” as more social media platforms hop onboard.

In a press release this weekend, the organization, which dictates policies for countries within the European Union, announced increased adoption in these efforts. A new evaluation shows that IT companies removed on average 70 percent of illegal hate speech reported to them.

Since May 2016, several tech giants, including Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and YouTube committed to censoring “illegal hate speech” through a Code of Conduct established by the European Commission.

According to the European Commission, the Code of Conduct was established to complement “legislation fighting racism and xenophobia which requires authors of illegal hate speech offenses – whether online or offline – to be effectively prosecuted.”

On average, one in five reported incidents are reported to the police.

On Friday, Google+ announced that it too is participating, and Facebook confirmed that its subsidiary company, Instagram, will also join efforts to censor the Internet of speech deemed illegal by the Code of Conduct.

“Today’s results clearly show that online platforms take seriously their commitment to review notifications and remove illegal hate speech within 24 hours,” said Andrus Ansip, the EC’s VP for the Digital Single Market. “I strongly encourage IT companies to improve transparency and feedback to users, in line with the guidance we published last year. It is also important that safeguards are in place to avoid over-removal and protect fundamental rights such as freedom of speech.”

His views were echoed by Vera Jourova, the EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality. “The Internet must be a safe place, free from illegal hate speech, free from xenophobic and racist content,” she said, adding that the Code of Conduct is “now proving to be a valuable tool to tackle illegal content quickly and efficiently.”

The report states that the rate of reported “hate speech” removal has risen from 28 percent when monitoring first started to 51 percent in the second round. The figure now rests at an average of 81 percent.

However, due to the lack of transparency, there is no guarantee that all speech reported (and subsequently removed) as “illegal hate speech” is even what these submissions claim.

The organization says it plans to improve the Code of Conduct, which currently offers little in the way of feedback to affected users who are not given sufficient information for why their speech is removed.

Ian Miles Cheong is a journalist and outspoken media critic. You can reach him through social media at @stillgray on Twitter and on Facebook.