The European Commission urged the biggest U.S. technology companies — like Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, YouTube and Google — to crack down on online hate speech themselves Sunday, or it will enact legislation forcing them to do so.
Several corporations in the tech industry agreed to remove content that incites hatred or is terrorist-related, after voluntarily signing a code of conduct earlier this year, according to Reuters.
The European Commission (much like the U.S. government, including President Barack Obama) are constantly worried that vitriolic posts on the internet helps terrorists’ recruitment efforts.
Many of the tech companies already have protocol for ridding of certain posts it deems dangerous. (RELATED: Twitter Claims To Have Shut Down 235,000 Accounts Connected To Terrorism In Past 6 Months)
Law enforcement activity “must be complemented with actions geared at ensuring that illegal hate speech online is expeditiously reviewed by online intermediaries and social media platforms” the European Commission’s press release on the official agreement from May reads. The signatories of the Code of Conduct “share, together with other platforms and social media companies, a collective responsibility and pride in promoting and facilitating freedom of expression throughout the online world.”
The E.U. isn’t satisfied with how quickly these companies respond to supposed hate speech. (RELATED: Silicon Valley Seems To Love Burying Conservative News)
The corporations are supposed to take action in Europe within 24 hours, but “In practice, the companies take longer and do not yet achieve this goal,” a commission official said, according to Reuters. “They only reviewed 40 percent of the recorded cases in less than 24 hours.”
The Commission feels that if the results do not improve it will have to ratify laws to force these companies to move faster.
“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,” E.U. Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova told the Financial Times.
Jourova led efforts on a report that showed an imbalance for tech companies rate of removal for racist posts, with 50 percent for Germany and France, but only 11 percent and 4 percent in Austria and Italy respectively, according to Reuters.
While several tech companies like Twitter and Facebook are being pressured by certain activists and international organizations to squelch posts with unsavory content, free-speech advocates argue the opposite.
Twitter, for example, was once proud to be a stalwart of free speech.
“Generally, we remain neutral as to the content because our general council and CEO like to say that we are the free speech wing of the free speech party,” Tony Wang, general manager of Twitter in the U.K., said in 2012 while describing the social media company.
But now Twitter seems to be ditching its image as a platform for completely free exchange of thought, after it suspended multiple accounts associated with the alt-right. In fact, the company seems so eager to remove accounts that it accidentally suspended its CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey last month. (RELATED: Twitter Doesn’t Rule Out Banning Trump If He Gets Too Unruly)
Famous actor James Woods decided to boycott Twitter in November due to this new pattern of censorship.
Twitter, like other tech companies, are hard-pressed to balance out the wishes of users who want to exercise their free speech rights, with governments and organizations that want certain language and content to be silenced due to its potential to stir hate.
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