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Tech giants adopt new code to combat hate speech online

Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube will take steps to prevent hate speech from spreading online under a new code of conduct agreed in partnership with the European Commission.

Under the voluntary code (3-page / 108KB PDF) the technology giants will review the majority of requests to remove hate speech in less than 24 hours and to "remove or disable access" to that content if necessary.

The companies will have "clear and effective processes to review notifications regarding illegal hate speech on their services so they can remove or disable access to such content" and also produce rules or guidelines that clarify that they "prohibit the promotion of incitement to violence and hateful conduct" by users, according to the code.

The code will require the four businesses to have dedicated teams in place to review requests for hate speech to be removed. Those teams will review those requests against their own rules and guidelines as well as, where necessary, legislation designed to combat expressions of racism and xenophobia.

The companies will also take steps to "educate and raise awareness with their users about the types of content not permitted under their rules and community guidelines", it said.

The code also envisages closer relationships between the technology giants and "civil society organisations" to enable those groups to more easily report hate speech online.

The companies have committed to provide staff with "regular training … on current societal developments" and to "intensify" their cooperation with other platforms and social media companies to "enhance best practice sharing" too.

EU justice commissioner Vĕra Jourová said: "The recent terror attacks have reminded us of the urgent need to address illegal online hate speech. 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. I welcome the commitment of worldwide IT companies to review the majority of valid notifications for removal of illegal hate speech in less than 24 hours and remove or disable access to such content, if necessary."

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