Top web companies agree to crack down on hate speech online

Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Google have promised to improve how they deal with hate speech online. The companies have signed up to new European Union rules, which require them to remove the bulk of offensive comments within 24 hours.

The new EU code has been created to tackle the problem of abuse on social media. It tasks web firms with acting quickly to deal with content that is illegal and overtly xenophobic. It also requires them to find ways to 'educate' their users on how to behave appropriately online.

Vera Jourova, the European commissioner for justice, said that the implementing the guidelines had become a priority following the terror attacks in Belgium. In a statement, she said: "Social media is unfortunately one of the tools that terrorist groups use to radicalise young people and racist use to spread violence and hatred. This agreement is an important step forward to ensure that the internet remains a place of free and democratic expression, where European values and laws are respected."

At the same time, the firms want to maintain free speech online, and have announced a set of standards that they'll all follow. These include reviewing the majority of reports of illegal hate speech within 24 hours, and removing if necessary. They'll also publish better guidelines to what behaviour isn't allowed on their services, and train staff to better deal with the nastier side of comments.

They have also agreed to overhaul notification systems to make it easier for people to report content that is inappropriate or inflammatory.

Monika Bickert, Facebook's head of global policy management said: "There's no place for hate speech on Facebook. We urge people to use our reporting tools if they find content that they believe violates our standards so we can investigate. Our teams around the world review these reports around the clock and take swift action."

Similarly, Twitter's European head of public policy, Karen White, said: "Hateful conduct has no place on Twitter and we will continue to tackle this issue head on alongside our partners in industry and civil society."

Source: BBC News

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