Facebook, YouTube, Microsoft, Twitter Crack Down on Hate Speech

Facebook, YouTube among those who agree with new European Commission policy.

ByABC News
May 31, 2016, 12:00 PM

— -- Some of the biggest names in technology, including Facebook, YouTube, Microsoft and Twitter, have vowed to remove illegal online hate speech within 24 hours, supporting a European Commission code of conduct to rid the Internet of incendiary messages.

In a code of conduct released today, the European Commission said its goal is to squash illegal online hate speech before it goes viral. The commission also called on the technology firms who agreed with the code of conduct to educate and "raise awareness" with users about appropriate online behavior.

"Social media is unfortunately one of the tools that terrorist groups use to radicalise young people and racist use to spread violence and hatred. This agreement is an important step forward to ensure that the Internet remains a place of free and democratic expression," Vera Jourova, European Commissioner for Justice, said in a statement.

In addition to reviewing the majority of "valid notifications" for hate speech in less than 24 hours and removing or disabling the content as necessary, the companies agreeing to the code of conduct will also work closely with various organizations that help flag extremist content online.

Continuing to identify and promote independent "counter narratives" that curb "hateful rhetoric and prejudice" will also play a key part in the endeavor, according to the European Commission.

Twitter announced earlier this year it had made huge strides in ridding the social network of extremist accounts. Since the middle of 2015, Twitter said it has suspended more than 125,000 accounts, many of which were supporting ISIS, according to a company blog post in February.

The company said it was able to achieve this by increasing the size of its teams tasked with reviewing reports of potentially terror-related threats. Twitter's blog post also noted it has taken a proactive approach by using its "proprietary spam-fighting tools" that are capable of surfacing accounts that could potentially be in violation.

"We remain committed to letting the Tweets flow," Karen White, Twitter's Head of Public Policy in Europe said in a statement today. "However, there is a clear distinction between freedom of expression and conduct that incites violence and hate."