Hate Speech

The European approach to regulating and moderating the spread of hate speech online represents an interesting experiment in public-private collaboration.

A triad of normally unaffiliated institutions sit at the middle of this effort. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) – particularly organisations with a background in promoting tolerance and fighting discrimination – are empowered to follow what happens on the platforms and "notify" content which they believe constitutes illegal hate speech. The platforms, in turn, evaluate 1) the notifications, 2) the local laws of the countries where a particular piece of content appears, and 3) their own community standards and guidelines. Based on that assessment, they decide if the content should be allowed to stay or taken down. Later the NGOs produce a report evaluating how much of the content they notified was taken down. The European Commission sits in the middle of the process – facilitating communication among the parties and providing periodic assessments of how much hate speech is slipping through despite the effort.

The unusual collaboration grew from equally unusual roots. Rather than imposing regulation, the European Commission encouraged platforms and NGOs to work together on this. Together, the three parties drew up a code of conduct on countering hate speech online (2016). To date, Dailymotion, Facebook, Google Plus, Instagram, Jeuxvideo, Microsoft, Snapchat, Twitter and YouTube have all signed on. Periodic assessments – fed by national NGO reports – have judged progress. You can find out more about this remarkable experiment on the European Commission code of conduct web page. Evidence from the monitoring exercise appears below as well.

The code itself draws on a definition laid down in the European Union’s framework decision on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law (2008). It defines hate speech as "all conduct publicly inciting to violence or hatred directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin, when carried out by the public dissemination or distribution of tracts, pictures or other material; Publicly condoning, denying or grossly trivialising crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes […], when the conduct is carried out in a manner likely to incite violence or hatred against such a group or a member of such a group."

More information about hate speech and the effort to regulate it is available on the World Intermediary Liability Map (WILMap), led by the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School.

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Rate of Hate Speech Content Removal Across ICT Companies (2018)

The chart presents the distribution of hate speech content removal by the ICT companies, based on data reported by social media platforms participating in the European Commission's Code of conduct. The data shows that out of the platforms participating in the Code of conduct, YouTube now has the highest rate of removal, while Twitter has the lowest. Facebook and YouTube have increased their rates of removal significantly, while Twitter's increase has been less dramatic.
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Rate of Hate Speech Content Removal Across ICT Companies (2019)

The chart presents the distribution of hate speech content removal by the ICT companies, based on data reported by social media platforms participating in the European Commission's Code of conduct. The fifth monitoring exercise shows that out of the platforms participating in the Code of conduct, Facebook has the highest rate of removal, while Twitter has the lowest. Instagram significantly decreased its removal rate, and Youtube has also registered a drop of its removal rate. Overall, the fifth monitoring exercise shows that the Code of conduct continues to bring positive results when it comes to illegal hate speech removal across social medial platforms.
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Rate of Notifications Reviewed Within 24 Hours Since the Launch of the Code of Conduct

This graph, based on data reported by social media platforms participating in the European Commission's Code of conduct, shows how tech companies have increased the percent of notifications which are reviewed within 24 hours. Among the platforms participating in the Code of conduct, Facebook showed the highest rate of review within one day, while Google+ the lowest. The average rate of review has increased from 40% in December 2016 to 88% in December 2018.
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Rate of Posts’ Removals by Social Media Platforms Across European Union Countries

The chart shows the percent of reviewed posts which social media platforms removed in each of four monitoring periods, by European Union member state. The results are based on data reported by social media platforms participating in the European Commission's Code of conduct. Removal rates ranged from as high as 100% to as low as 0%. European Union refes to EU28. The United Kingdom left the European Union on 31 January 2020.
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Rate of Posts’ Removals by Social Media Platforms Across European Union Countries (2019)

The chart shows the per cent of reviewed posts which social media platforms removed in each of five monitoring periods, by European Union member state. The results are based on data reported by social media platforms participating in the European Commission's Code of conduct. Removal rates ranged from as high as 100% to as low as 0%. European Union refes to EU28. The United Kingdom left the European Union on 31 January 2020.
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Share of People Who Faced Hate Speech Online in France (2015)

The chart shows the exposure to hateful online content on the internet, based on the results of a survey conducted in France in February 2015. Results show that men were generally more exposed to this type of content compared to women. 55% of male respondents came across racist statements online, while only 47% of women respondents did so.
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Trend in Removal Rates on Facebook Based on the Moving Averages of Percentage of Removed Cases (2017)

The chart presents the share of the reported content which was removed by Facebook, based on data collected by the International Network Against Cyber Hate. The report found that, in 2017, Facebook's monthly removal rate varied widely, reaching a maximum level in August (80%) and a minimum in May (around 40%). Overall, Facebook's removal rate trended slightly upward in 2017.
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Trend in Removal Rates on Twitter Based on the Moving Averages of Percentage of Removed Cases (2017)

The chart presents the share of the reported content which was removed by Twitter, based on data collected by the International Network Against Cyber Hate. The report found that, in 2017, Twitter's monthly removal rate has a high variation, and recorded a maximum level in February (90%) and a minimum in November (around 10%). Overall, Twitter’s removal rate shows a steep downward trend in 2017.
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Trend in Removal Rates on Youtube Based on the Moving Averages of Percentage of Removed Cases (2017)

The chart presents the share of the reported content which was removed by YouTube, based on data collected by the International Network Against Cyber Hate. The report found that, in 2017, YouTube’s monthly removal rate was highly volatile, recording maximum levels in January and April (90%) and minimum one in June (around 22%). Overall, YouTube’s removal rate has a slight downward trend in 2017.