1How Web Giants’ Adoption of EU Rules Seeks to Rein In Hate Speech
2Firstly, Who Are the Players?
3They Claim They Were Already Doing This
In addition to removing offending content within 24 hours, the companies have promised to continually monitor posts to ensure there are no violations to the EU’s code of conduct. However, all of the companies say they’ve already been doing that and have been deleting hate speech as required in Germany and elsewhere for quite some time. The agreement with the EU, then, is simply a formal acknowledgment of previous practices, they say. It’s unknown whether the EU sees it that way.
4The Web Companies Expect to Avoid Fines
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons the companies signed the agreement was to avoid fines. Previously, the European Union said it would step in with possible fines on companies that didn’t remove content. By signing the EU agreement, the companies can now say that they are in compliance and therefore should not be subject to fines for failing to comply.
5How to Determine What Content Is Offensive
6Different Countries Have Different Views
It’s also worth noting that the European Union is a collective of different countries with different regulations and views on what’s offensive and what’s not. It’s entirely possible that speech that’s viewed as hateful in one region in the EU isn’t so offensive in another region. Maneuvering through that minefield won’t be easy for the companies involved.
7Companies Will Monitor Content Worldwide
8What About Everyone Else?
Whether these moves will be enough to actually affect the incidence of hate speech is a topic of debate across the eurozone. While Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are some of the largest Web venues where hate speech can appear, they are by no means the only places. There are a multitude of forums, social networks and Web pages where people can post hate speech. Even if hate speech is removed from the most prominent forums, the purveyors of hate can always go somewhere else to post their invective.
9The Companies Say They Don’t Want to Be Web Censors
These companies’ decision to abide by the EU’s code of conduct has raised the ire of some digital rights activists, who say that it could violate free speech. To sidestep such controversy, the companies say they are in no way in favor of censorship and will continue to allow users to post their true feelings. They did, however, say that when a post is clearly meant to hurt another, it should be removed. Whether that argument will allay anyone’s fears remains to be seen.
10There’s an Educational Component
In addition to removing offensive content, the technology companies say they will create their own educational content to fight hate, including promoting “counter-narratives” that take aim at hate speech. Twitter, Facebook and the others also said they will launch educational campaigns to help people understand the true nature of their words and why they could be hurtful.
11Corporate Executives Could Face Jail Time
EU officials have said the executives of companies that don’t comply with the agreement could face sanctions beyond cash fines. If the EU decides that certain content should be banned but a Web company fails to take action, EU law stipulates that it could send company executives to jail for at least one year, though the term could be substantially longer. This stipulation raises the prospects of serious legal battles if there are disagreements over what constitutes hateful speech.