Facebook and YouTube are upping their fight against hate content. However, almost every other hate post is targeted against Muslims or migrants, and every tenth against Jews. EURACTIV Czech Republic partner Aktuálně reports.
Last Thursday (1 June), the European Commission published the results of a survey showing how online companies are fighting hate speech. The report was prepared by Justice Commissioner Věra Jourová.
“We will keep doing all we can to prevent tragedies like this from happening,” Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said a few months ago when the world was shocked by a murder broadcast by the murderer in real time on Facebook. This was not an isolated case. The online giant endured a wave of criticism because the video was not deleted by Facebook staff until two hours later. In the meantime, it was seen by 22,000 people, 1,200 of who shared it.
According to the Commission, companies operating on the Internet have actually begun doing something about the issue.
Jourová: They called me “the minister of truth”
It was Commissioner Jourová who opened the question of removing violent and hateful content from the Internet more than a year ago. Last May, the European Commission adopted a Code of Conduct that obliges online companies to review reported posts as quickly as possible and delete them immediately, if necessary. Although compliance with the Code is voluntary, firms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube did not hesitate to commit themselves to comply with it.
“A year ago, some argued that committing themselves to comply with the Code would jeopardise freedom of speech. Some even called me the minister of truth,” said Jourová.
The first assessment of compliance with the Code took place in December last year, not-so-positive results. For example, in Italy, only 4% of harmful content was removed from the Internet at that time.
Now, the European Commission has come up with another assessment, which has shown considerable progress. The efficiency and speed of removing hate content have improved considerably since December.
Companies have also increased reporting harmful content.
“I certainly don’t want companies that have committed themselves to comply with the Code to remove 100% of what someone reports because most of it is protected by the right to freedom of speech,” Jourová told EURACTIV.cz.
“But if there are calls for violence or killing on the Internet, which is generally prohibited in Europe, they must act immediately,” the Commissioner added.
However, removal of online hate content is not just something called for by the Commission. In March, it was also supported by the European Parliament. At the end of May, ministers from the member states adopted a draft measure that would oblige Internet companies to delete such content.
“We are aware of the fact that companies cannot be held accountable until they know for sure that the reported content is illegal and inadmissible,” stressed German SPD lawmaker Petra Kammerevert (S&D). However, she believes that assessment of the content must be quick and accurate.
Only half of the content within 24 hours
The latest survey by the European Commission has shown that Facebook deletes illegal content in 66.5% of cases. In December, the company only did so in 28% of cases.
Twitter has also improved, being able to effectively delete over 37% of harmful content; six months ago, it only deleted 19% of such posts. YouTube deletes harmful content in two-thirds of cases.
However, what is also important is the time during which employees become familiar with the reported content and decide whether it should be deleted. Although Facebook, for example, employs thousands of people working 24 hours a day seven days a week for these purposes, only about 51% of the posts are handled by these employees during the first day from the moment they were reported. This is progress compared to 40% from last December, but there is still room for improvement.
“There is also a problem with complying with the time commitment, i.e. 24 hours, to review the reported posts. Even during this time, the consequences of failure to promptly remove the posts can be fatal,” says Jourová.
In addition, the survey shows that feedback should also be improved, especially for users reporting posts. Facebook puts emphasis on it, trying to “instruct” its users in 94% of cases. In contrast, Twitter only sends feedback in one-third of cases, and YouTube in only one-fifth.
Muslims, migrants and Jews
Last week, the European Parliament adopted a resolution concerning the fight against anti-Semitism in the EU.
“The number of anti-Semitic incidents in EU member states has risen significantly in recent years, as reported by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights,” the document says, among other things.
This initiative seems necessary. The Commission’s survey has shown that nearly every tenth illegal and hateful post on the Internet is anti-Semitic.
However, the most important role is currently played by the ongoing migration crisis. Refugees, migrants and Muslims are the targets of 40% of hate content online.