Google, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft have all agreed to ramp up the fight against hate speech with a new code of conduct that was announced by the European Union Tuesday. Under the new agreement, the four tech giants promise to review and if necessary remove the majority of hate speech that has been brought to their attention within 24 hours.
The new code of conduct is as much a response to the terror attacks in Paris and Brussels as to growing right-wing violence across Europe. In many ways, it follows similar rules that have already been in place in Germany for some time.
The code of conduct also includes a commitment to closer cooperation between the four companies to develop industry-wide best practices, as well as the support of speech countering hate. The participating companies “aim to continue their work in identifying and promoting independent counter-narratives, new ideas and initiatives and supporting educational programs that encourage critical thinking,” according to a press release of the European Commission.
The four tech companies lauded the agreement, saying that it is in line with their existing efforts against hate speech. “We remain committed to letting the tweets flow,” said Twitter’s European head of public policy Karen White. “However, there is a clear distinction between freedom of expression and conduct that incites violence and hate.”
Added Google’s public policy and government relations director Lie Junius: “We’re committed to giving people access to information through our services, but we have always prohibited illegal hate speech on our platforms.”
However, there are notable differences on what constitutes hate speech in some European countries and the U.S.. Civil rights groups also expressed displeasure Tuesday with the fact that the code of conduct puts too much of an emphasis on rules developed by each company, and not the letter of the law, calling the agreement “ill considered.”