The EU’s Code of Conduct on countering online illegal hate speech has improved the response rate of IT Companies in removing such content.


EDC News: Countering Online Illegal Hate Speech

The constant evolution of new technologies have simplified the process for communicating online, thus increasing the possibilities for economic growth, freedom of communication and democracy. Conversely, it opens up access to platforms for spreading extremism and intolerance, i.e. the most common form of intolerance is illegal online hate speech (Decision 2008/913/JHA) with regard to xenophobia. This behaviour directly clashes with the fundamental values (human dignity, freedom, equality and respect for human rights) of the treaty on the European Union, thereby calling for immediate action.


Past European Union joint actions, reports and frameworks focused mainly at combating offline racism and xenophobia, but as these problems are now spreading exponentially online these actions and frameworks need to evolve. The European Union, together with four major IT Companies (Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube), developed a Code of Conduct which was launched on 31 May 2016. Its purpose is to reduce the level of illegal racist and xenophobic hate speech online, to ensure that such content is removed quickly and to provide the criteria for which the IT Companies must comply with, such as:

  • Having in place a clear and effective process to review the majority of the notifications regarding illegal hate speech on their services, thereby removing or disabling access to such content within 24 hours
  • Having in place rules or Community Guidelines clarifying that they prohibit the promotion of motivation to violence and hateful conduct
  • Reviewing the valid removal notifications once received, against their rules and community guidelines and, where necessary, national laws transposing the Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA, with dedicated teams reviewing requests.

To ensure that the IT companies are complying with the Code of Conduct, the European Commission agreed with its sub-groups upon a common methodology to evaluate their progress. A comparison between the first (Dec 2016) and the fourth (Feb 2019) evaluations showed there was an increase from 28% to 78% in the removal of notified illegal hate speech. Of these there was a 49% increase in the number of notified illegal hate speech removed within 24 hours (40%, 89% respectively).

There are now 9 IT Companies participating in the Code of Conduct, who cover 96% of the EU market share of online platforms. The Code has become an industry standard attracting a diverse range of platforms for both big and small business.  


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