Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube go after online hate speech in the EU

The European Commission is teaming up with Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in effort to stop the spread of illegal hate speech and make public parts of the internet a safer and more civil space.

The new collaboration, originally spotted by Fortune’s David Meyer, was announced by the EU’s executive branch earlier this morning. The IT companies are vowing to help fight against illegal hate speech online and promote openness and non-discrimination.

Of course, perhaps the biggest issue here is what exactly constitutes illegal hate speech. The subject is vast and constantly evolving, but as a general rule, European laws and the European Court of Human Rights define illegal hate speech as incitement of hate or violence against a person or a group of people based on their ethnicity, religion, race, sexual orientation and other such factors. The ECHR also notes that condoning of terrorism, condoning of war crimes or apologizing of violence can also constitute illegal hate speech.

The companies involved: Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube serve billions of users on a daily basis, so providing a safe space online for “democratic discourse” is one of their obligations not only ethically but also legally.

To that end, the companies involved have declared that they’ve already set in place sturdy and robust systems where illegal hate speech can be reported and dealt with. Though before you cry out in fear of censorship, note that the social networks involved have declared that only precise and decisive objections to content will be dealt with.

Also worth noting is that most countries, and indeed most of these companies, already have laws, rules and systems set in place to deal with such content, so the European Commission’s decision is more in line with a standardization and consolidation effort than actually brining new rules to the table.

Source: European Commission

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