EU’s way of combating hate speech online

Emil Wojtaluk

 

Did you know that the EU took unprecedented steps towards combating hate speech in the Internet? Two months ago the European Commission together with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft (referred to as ‘IT companies”) agreed on a special code of conduct to fight with spreading hate speech.

A 3D-printed Facebook logo is seen in front of the logo of the European Union in this picture illustration (Photo: DADO RUVIC / Reuters)

A 3D-printed Facebook logo is seen in front of the logo of the European Union in this picture illustration (Photo: DADO RUVIC / Reuters)

While ensuring freedom of expression online the EU Commission and IT companies recognized that illegal hate speech negatively affects those fighting for freedom, tolerance and badly affect democratic discussion throughout the Internet. National legislation of the EU Member States plays a crucial role on preventing illegal practices. In that view Council Framework Decision on combating racism and xenophobia has to be fully implemented in national legal systems also in the online world – which also came as a conclusion of talks between the EU and IT companies. Actions guaranteeing that online agents and social media platforms will respond quickly on valid notifications of illegal hate speech in the Internet are equally important as complying with the law – that’s why a dialogue with IT companies was needed.

In response to all the challenges arising from the use of Internet, the European Commission together with the above mentioned IT companies have agreed on the Code of Conduct on Countering Illegal Hate Speech Online. Signing the code, IT companies committed themselves on continuous development of their internal security measures and staff trainings to ensure an effective process of reviewing valid notifications – to make it possible to review such notifications in less than 24 hours, and if necessary, decide on deleting or blocking such content. IT companies will also focus on closer cooperation with NGOs, which will help in reporting of hate speech content – they also underline that creating of the code of conduct aims at sharing good practices with other companies.

Most relevant public commitments included in the code of conduct among other things are: 1) Creating transparent and effective tools of reviewing hate speech notifications by IT companies – they should also possess specific rules or guidelines clarifying prohibition of the promotion of incitement to violence and hateful conduct; 2) The IT companies commit themselves to review the majority of valid notifications in less than 24 hours; 3) Spreading of knowledge and conducting promotional campaigns on the types of illegal content by the IT companies; 4) Encouraging experts to bring their remarks and reporting content inciting to violence and hateful conduct on a wider scale; 5) Sharing good practices with other companies; 6) Cooperating with civil society organizations.

Full text of the Code of Conduct on Countering Illegal Speech Online is available HERE

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Digital Single Market – dream that may come true

Katarzyna Stachyra

source: ec.europa.eu

source: ec.europa.eu

Last month European Commission presented its communication titled ‘A Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe’[1]. Commissioner, who is responsible for this issue, is named Andrus Ansip. Introducing the next step in European integration is one of the most important priorities of the Commission. According to researches[2], only less than a half of EU citizens are confident during buying goods on-line from another EU state. This may be caused by many factors, for instance differences in shipping costs, standards of consumer protection – questions concerning returns policy or guarantees, doubts with currency exchange (in states which euro is not in use, such as Denmark or Poland). However, our comfort is not the only advantage which may be achieved after removing barriers. As European Commission highlights, introducing digital single market will have significant impact on development of trade and other areas. Jean Claude Junker argues that ‘By creating a connected digital single market, we can generate up to EUR 250 billion of additional growth in Europe in the course of the mandate of the next Commission, thereby creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs, notably for younger job-seekers, and a vibrant knowledge-based society.[3]’ So it’s worth taking a look at Commissions proposals, isn’t it?

Andrus Ansip(left) and Gunther Oettinger hold a joint press conference on Digital Market

Commissioners Andrus Ansip(left) and Gunther Oettinger hold a joint press conference on Digital Market (source: brinknews.com)

Three points, many challenges

European Commission indicated three key points in Digital Single Market strategy. Firstly, online access to digital goods and services should be better. Secondly, infrastructure which is necessary for prospering of digital networks and services should be developed. Thirdly, digital growth should be as beneficial as possible for economy, industry and employment. Although those postulates deserves support, currently it’s too early to open champagne. On one hand there are problems with mentioned point two – infrastructure. Certainly, in some of EU member states this issue is just unknown because digitalization ‘reached’ the majority of residents. But we can’t forget that access to the Internet or even to modern appliances is not so obvious in every place in Europe. On the other hand, even if those complications will be resolved, there are still questions about legal regulations – for example standards of protection of consumers, personal data protection, different VAT regimes, copyright rules, geo-blocking, the Internet neutrality, or just how and where assert claims in connection with the contracts. Legislation procedure takes so much time, that it may be factor which will delay introduction of Digital Single Market.

Future that is late

European Commission’s strategy sounds optimistic. But it’s hard to deny it comes too late. Why Digital Single Market is something that doesn’t exist now? It’s additional prove that our administration and law are not following technological development. Maybe this is impossible and current barriers disappear in some kind of ‘natural’ way thanks to market mechanisms and e-society?

[1] http://ec.europa.eu/priorities/digital-single-market/index_en.htm

[2] http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-15-4920_en.htm

[3] Extract from the Political Guidelines for the next European Commission – A New Start for Europe: My Agenda for Jobs, Growth, Fairness and Democratic Change (15 July 2014)