Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB), Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR), Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) and Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) have agreed to review all requests related to hate speech within 24 hours. The new ‘code of conduct’ formulated by the European Commission seeks to curtail the spread of hate speech in the region, though it could end up being abused by people trying to silence certain points of view.
The new rules also require Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Microsoft to identify and promote any counter-narrative to hate speech. The tech giants have also agreed to make it clear in their terms of service that they do not condone any hateful conduct or content used to fuel violence.
Facebook has been the most proactive in the recent past in combating hate speech. The lead role comes on the social network coming under immense criticism from German Justice Minister over concerns it was doing little to fight the vice. The tech giant has since agreed to flag down any racist or xenophobic content within 24 hours, though the definition of racist or xenophobic content is up for debate.
Alphabet, whose video platform YouTube plays hosts to millions of videos has also joined the bandwagon in combating hate speech. The search giant has agreed to remove any video content uploaded with a view of fuelling tensions between natives and refugees. In other words, to silence criticism of European government policy to allow in Syrian refugees, hence the pressure coming from the German government.
Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) has also reiterated that hateful content has no place on its microblogging site. The company says it will continue to tackle the vice in partnership with other partners in the industry.
Growing Regulatory Pressure
The stance held by the companies on hate speech comes at a time when the EU is trying to combat terrorist propaganda. The EU commission is now urging these companies believed to have the biggest influence on people to develop content able to counter propaganda efforts from the likes of ISIS.
However, the aggressiveness shown by regulators has left the tech giants wondering whether the same will affect the free flow of information in the region. Balancing between freedom of speech and censorship could turn out to be a hard task, or perhaps even rigged.