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EU, Social Media Firms to Combat Hate Speech | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Logo of Twitter and Facebook are seen through magnifier on display in this illustration taken in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, December 16, 2015. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

The European Union’s executive arm said on Tuesday it has reached an agreement with some of the world’s biggest social media firms to combat the spread of hate speech online through a code of conduct.

Under the terms of the code, the firms, which include Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft, have committed to “quickly and efficiently” tackle illegal hate speech.

Staff will be trained so a majority of illegal content is assessed and, where necessary, removed within 24 hours.

The companies have also agreed to encourage “counter narratives” to the hate speech.

Vera Jourova, the EU commissioner responsible for justice, consumers and gender equality, said the internet is “a place for free speech, not hate speech” and that public incitement to violence or hatred “has no place online.

“The recent terror attacks have reminded us of the urgent need to address illegal online hate speech. Social media is unfortunately one of the tools that terrorist groups use to radicalize young people,” Jourova said.

EU governments have been trying in recent months to get social platforms to crack down on rising online racism following the refugee crisis and terror attacks, with some even threatening action against the companies.

The code of conduct is largely a continuation of efforts that the companies already take to counter hate speech on their websites, such as developing tools for people to report hateful content and training staff to handle such requests.

Twitter has suspended over 125,000 accounts since the middle of 2015 for threatening or promoting terror acts, primarily related to ISIS.