Several of the web’s big players have released the news that they intend to deal with and remove hate speech posted online within 24 hours of it going live.

The move supports a new code-of-conduct intended to limit the dissemination of online abuse via social media. The code was drafted by the EU.

In essence, the new code that companies such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft have signed up to means that they will act quickly when they are made aware of hate speech. Specifically, the new code will deal with xenophobic or illegal content.

EU parliament voting on neutrality

As an aside, the firms involved have pledged to also educate users about what does and does not constitute acceptable behaviour.

The important part of the new code-of-conduct is the bit about ’24’ hours. The 4 big companies signing up to the agreement pretty much don’t have to do very much to be in compliance.

All 4 of them already have processes and policies in place to deal with online hate speech, and to varying degrees of success, enforce them successfully.

The new time limit set by the EU though, hopes that now online hate speech will be shut down before it gets a chance to go viral.

Vĕra Jourová, EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, said: 

“Social media is unfortunately one of the tools that terrorist groups use to radicalise young people and racist use to spread violence and hatred. This agreement is an important step forward to ensure that the internet remains a place of free and democratic expression, where European values and laws are respected. I welcome the commitment of worldwide IT companies to review the majority of valid notifications for removal of illegal hate speech in less than 24 hours and remove or disable access to such content, if necessary.”

The EU have been pro-active in this area in recent times. In December 2015, they launched the EU Internet Forum, a means to try and “protect the public from the spread of terrorist material and terrorist exploitation of communication channels to facilitate and direct their activities.”

At the heart of the new code-of-conduct, is the idea that freedom of expression is considered to be a core European value that should be defended.