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Facebook and co have to remove hate speech within 24 hours - but it 'won't change the reality'

The new rules will see companies like Facebook review and remove hate speech within 24 hours of being notified.

Image: AP Photo/Peter Morrison

FOUR OF THE biggest tech companies have agreed to review and remove any illegal hate speech within 24 hours of being notified.

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft announced their commitment to a code of conduct which would see them remove or disable access to hate speech after review.

The new rules, announced by the European Commission, is in response to the recent terror attacks in places like Paris and Brussels and the growing trend of social media being used by terrorist groups to promote their aims were some of the reasons behind the agreement.

As part of the agreement, some of the main points include:

  • To review the majority of valid notifications in less than 24 hours and remove or disable access to such content, if necessary.
  • To have dedicated teams reviewing requests to remove hate speech.
  • To have clear processes to review notifications regarding online hate speech on their services.
  • To raise awareness with their users about the types of content not allowed on their sites.

The EU commissioner for justice, Vĕra Jourová said in a statement that the agreement was “an important step forward to ensure that the internet remains a place of free and democratic expression, where European values and laws are respected”.


However, the news has left some concerned about the possible implications. TJ McIntyre, a lawyer with online privacy campaigners Digital Rights Ireland said the deal was “in many ways… a symbolic statement” and would lead to little change among companies or the EU.

“It won’t change the reality on the ground at all and to that extent, it’s something of an easy win for the EU,” he said. “It’s more about the optics of it, as much from the industry side as from the official side”.

The industry gets to say it’s doing something when it’s really doing what it has already been doing and the EU gets to say it’s doing something when in fact it hasn’t changed much at all.

He also said the agreement was “concerning” since it places more of the responsiblity of free speech on private companies, which could lead them to “censor content which might be perfectly legal content in a way that’s really unaccountable”.

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About the author:

Quinton O'Reilly

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