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EU lawmakers are drafting a forthcoming law to curb illegal hate speech online

According to a report in Tech Crunch, EU lawmakers are working on a new draft of measures aimed at online liability and individual platform responsibilities

Four years after major tech platforms first signed up to voluntarily remove illegal hate speech, EU lawmakers are applauding their efforts and at the same time, asking the tech companies to do better.

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According to a report in Tech Crunch, EU lawmakers are working on a new draft of measures aimed at online liability and individual platform responsibilities. Evaluating and removing hate speech is one of those measures.

For the past several years, platforms have individually signed up to evaluate and remove illegal hate speech as part of the non-legally binding Code of Conduct.

This year’s report card shows positive results. Ninety percent of flagged content was assessed within 24 hours and 71 percent of the content deemed to be illegal hate speech was removed. The numbers are up 28 percent since the Code of Conduct launched in 2016.

But the report card also finds room for improvement, specifically when it comes to transparency. Platforms gave feedback about the hate speech removal only 67 percent of the time, the report found, and only Facebook gave feedback consistently.

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In addition, officials found inconsistencies with the way tech platforms assessed and evaluated hate speech. “Separate but comparable” flagged content was treated differently in different time periods, the report found.

That’s why lawmakers are looking to solidify the way hate speech is handled online.

“The Code of conduct remains a success story when it comes to countering illegal hate speech online. It offered urgent improvements while fully respecting fundamental rights,” Věra Jourová, Commission VP for values and transparency, said in a statement to Tech Crunch.

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“It created valuable partnerships between civil society organisations, national authorities and the IT platforms. Now the time is ripe to ensure that all platforms have the same obligations across the entire Single Market and clarify in legislation the platforms’ responsibilities to make users safer online. What is illegal offline remains illegal online.”

Lawmakers are looking to a much broader way to regulate digital presences in the forthcoming Digital Services Act, like putting legal limits on illegal content online.

For example, the Code of Conduct does not take into account the wide variety of platforms that may have hate speech. Right now, Dailymotion, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Jeuxvideo.com, Microsoft, Snapchat, Twitter and YouTube all signed on to the non-legally binding Code of Conduct to handle hate speech. However, in today’s day and age, this list doesn’t include many budding tech platforms.

“It will create a European framework for digital services, and complement existing EU actions to curb illegal hate speech online,” Didier Reynders, commissioner for Justice, told Tech Crunch. “The Commission will also look into taking binding transparency measures for platforms to clarify how they deal with illegal hate speech on their platforms.”

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