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An evaluation on the EU Code of Conduct on countering illegal hate speech online shows the initiative is delivering successful results.

Today marks the fourth evaluation on the EU Code of Conduct on countering illegal hate speech, whereby it has been announced that IT companies are now assessing 89% of flagged content within 24 hours and 72% of the content deemed to be illegal hate speech is removed. These new figures compare to 40% of flagged content assessed and 28% of illegal hate speech being removed when the Code was first launched in 2016.

It has been revealed that companies are removing illegal content more rapidly than previously. That being said, the removal rate indicates that the review made by the companies continues to respect freedom of expression and therefore has not led to over-removal.

What is the Code of Conduct on countering illegal hate speech online?

The Code was launched in May 2016 and is presented by the European Commission, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube. It was released in response to the proliferation of racist and xenophobic hate speech online and follows the collective responsibility of the EU, its Member States, social media companies and other platforms to promote and facilitate freedom of expression in the online world, whilst ensuring the internet does not become a free space for violence and hatred.

The fourth evaluation confirms the Code is proving successful

According to the Commission, since its launch, the Code of Conduct has been continuously progressing and delivering positive results. The fourth evaluation confirms that IT companies provide a swift response to racist and xenophobic hate speech notified to them; however, it has been speculated that they do need to improve their feedback to the users notifying content, and provide more transparency on notices and removals.

European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, Andrus Ansip, has commented on the evaluation, saying: “Today’s evaluation shows that co-operation with companies and civil society brings results. Companies are now assessing 89% of flagged content within 24 hours, and promptly act to remove it when necessary. This is more than twice as much as compared to 2016. More importantly, the Code works because it respects freedom of expression. The internet is a place people go to share their views and find out information at the click of a button. Nobody should feel unsafe or threatened due to illegal hateful content remaining online.”

Vĕra Jourová, European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, has also spoken on the topic, saying: Illegal hate speech online is not only a crime, it represents a threat to free speech and democratic engagement. In May 2016, I initiated the Code of Conduct on online hate speech, because we urgently needed to do something about this phenomenon. Today, after two and a half years, we can say that we found the right approach and established a standard throughout Europe on how to tackle this serious issue, while fully protecting freedom of speech.”

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