EU states approve plans to make social media firms tackle hate speech

Despite its continued growth, Facebook is being subject to increasing criticism for tolerating hate speech. [Esther Vargas / Flickr]

European Union ministers approved proposals on Tuesday (23 May) to make social media companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Google’s YouTube tackle videos with hate speech on their platforms.

The proposals, which would be the first legislation at EU level on the issue, still need to be agreed with the European Parliament before becoming law. But EU lawmakers have similarly pushed for social media companies to do more to tackle hateful content on their platforms.

The proliferation of hate speech and fake news on social media has increased pressure on companies to remove such content promptly, while internet campaigners have warned an excessive crackdown could endanger freedom of speech.

EU urges US tech giants to act faster against hate speech

US tech giants including Facebook, Twitter, Google’s YouTube and Microsoft will have to act faster to tackle online hate speech or face laws forcing them to do so, the European Commission said on Sunday (4 December).

Tuesday’s agreement came a day after a suicide bomber killed at least 22 people at a concert in the English city of Manchester. Ministers all offered their condolences to the British delegation.

Where the provision of videos forms an “essential part” of the services provided by a social media company, they will have to take measures to block videos with hate speech, incitement to hatred and content justifying terrorism from their platforms.

This could include establishing mechanisms for users to flag such content.

“We need to take into account new ways of watching videos, and find the right balance to encourage innovative services, promote European films, protect children and tackle hate speech in a better way,” said Andrus Ansip, EU Commission Vice-President for the Digital Single Market.

The proposals will not extend to live streaming, for example, Facebook Live, but just videos stored on a platform, an EU diplomat said.

Germany set to fine social media platforms millions over hate speech

A new draft German law would fine social media firms up to €50 million if they fail to remove hate speech, jumping ahead of EU plans. The European Commission is still weighing up whether it will propose rules to crack down on online hate speech.

The proposals also include a quota of 30% of European films and TV shows on video streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, up from the 20% originally proposed by the European Commission.

In addition, member states will be able to require video-sharing platforms to contribute financially to the production of European works in the country where they are established and also where they target audiences.

MEPs raise Netflix quota to 30% and sharpen rules on violent online posts

Netflix and other video-on-demand platforms could be required to include a minimum 30% of European content—more than the Commission’s proposed 20% quota, if new broadcasting rules follow a report approved yesterday (25 April) by MEPs in the Culture Committee.

Background

The European Union has pledged closer cooperation in the fight against terrorism following the Paris terrorist attacks in 2015. Two priority tracks were identified:

  • Hampering the travel movements of terrorists, including so-called “foreign fighters” and European nationals crossing the EU’s external borders.
  • Countering terrorist propaganda, particularly on the Internet, in order to tackle the root causes of radicalisation among young people.

From 9/11 to Charlie Hebdo: The EU’s response to terrorism

The European Union has pledged closer cooperation in the fight against terrorism following the killing at Charlie Hebdo, building on measures already taken in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US, and subsequent bombings in Madrid and London. EURACTIV gives a round-up of existing and upcoming initiatives.