Social media giants Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc., Google and Microsoft Corp. have vowed to tackle online hate speech in less than 24 hours as part of a joint commitment with the European Union to combat the use of social media by terrorists, reports Bloomberg Technology.
Beyond national laws that criminalize hate speech, there is a need to ensure such activity by Internet users is “expeditiously reviewed by online intermediaries and social media platforms, upon receipt of a valid notification, in an appropriate time-frame,” the companies and the European Commission said in a joint statement on Tuesday.
The companies claim that it remains a “challenge” to strike a balance between protecting freedom of expression and eliminating hate speech because of the user generated content on their platforms.
Romain Dillet of Tech Crunch speculates that the Social Networks are trying to tackle hate speech to avoid responsibility.
Tech companies probably don’t want to be held responsible for hate speech and are now taking a strong stance against hate speech. This is surprising as many social networks have promoted free expression and have refused to delete content or accounts in the past (except when it comes to copyrighted material).
But it’s been a slow and steady change. Twitter has already suspended 125,000 accounts related to ISIS since mid-2015. Facebook already agreed to work with the German government against hateful speech back in September 2015. Google and Twitter later joined Facebook and the German government in December 2015. Now, four tech companies are making a formal pledge at the European level against hate speech.
Twitter’s head of public policy for Europe, Karen White, said in a statement that the company remains “committed to letting the Tweets flow,” but “there is a clear distinction between freedom of expression and conduct that incites violence and hate.”
Within the EU there has been numerous cases of individuals being arrested for “hate speech” and “offensive” language, which sparks concern over social networks becoming an arm of the political correctness police that now patrol the EU.
In early May it was reported that YouTuber Markus Meechan was arrested for a satire video where he trained his girlfriend’s dog to perform a “Nazi salute” when he says “gas the Jews.”
When Scottish Police showed up at Meechan’s house they told him he was being arrested for hate crimes over the video.
British police arrested a man in February for criticizing Syrian Migrants on Facebook while promising that there would zero tolerance For ‘Offence’ Online.
Although networks like Twitter are saying that there will be an attempt to balance out free expression and what they consider to be dangerous, the fact that the lines have already been blurred between the two inside the EU is quite concerning.