Four of the largest and most influential tech companies in the world have agreed to adhere to a European Union regulation that would quickly stifle the spread of so-called hate speech in Europe, a development that has free speech activists worried that the internet will no longer be a haven for free expression.
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube (owned by Google), and Microsoft are all onboard with an EU initiative that would compel owners of social media platforms and other communication gateways to purge online hate speech within 24 hours of it being posted, Reuters reported.
The move comes after individual governments in Europe – largely led by Germany – petitioned companies like Facebook and Twitter to better monitor their widely-used platforms for instances of racism and other forms of bigotry, especially in light of the massive influx of migrants from the Middle East and North Africa.
“The recent terror attacks have reminded us of the urgent need to address illegal online hate speech,” said EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova. “Social media is unfortunately one of the tools that terrorist groups use to radicalize young people.”
Whereas the companies each have their own systems for users to help flag hateful conduct and have it subjected to review, the new pledge will see them vow to get rid of such content with 24 hours and help foster “counter-narratives” to hate speech.
“There’s no place for hate speech on Facebook,” said the company’s Head of Global Policy Management Monika Bickert. “With a global community of 1.6 billion people we work hard to balance giving people the power to express themselves whilst ensuring we provide a respectful environment.”
Similar efforts have cropped un the United States, where Facebook, Twitter, and Google have all rolled out their own initiatives to thwart the proliferation of fake news and hate speech by introducing new services and revamping existing codes of conduct.