Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, and YouTube agreed on Tuesday to review requests for removal of hateful content posted on their platforms within 24 hours. The internet giants have signed up to an EU code of conduct against hate speech, said the European Commission.
According to a statement issued by the Commission, the Council Framework Decision on combating racism and xenophobia (2008) has to be made applicable in both the "online and offline environment".
The framework states intentionally “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" is criminally punishable.
In the press release, European Union Comissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Vera Jourova referred to recent terror attacks to highlight the urgency needed to tackle "illegal online hate speech".
She 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.”
The regulation comes in addition to each firm's own set of rules and community standards which some have tightened over the recent months.
In February, Twitter announced in a blog post that it shut down 125,000 accounts which were believed to be promoting terrorist activities, primarily related to DAESH.
Similarly on May 20, Microsoft outlined its plan for tackling terrorism online in a blog post.
While tech giants agreed to monitor and flag harmful content, they also made sure they left room for the right to freedom of expression.
“We remain committed to letting the Tweets flow. However, there is a clear distinction between freedom of expression and conduct that incites violence and hate,” said Twitter’s Head of Public Policy for Europe Karen White.
A similar statement also came from Facebook. “We work hard to balance giving people the power to express themselves whilst ensuring we provide a respectful environment,” said Monika Bickert, Head of Global Policy Management at Facebook.