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Instagram joins EU fight against illegal online hate speech

Social networks have made dramatic improvements when it comes to removing illegal content from their platforms, says the European Commission.

EU and Technology

The EU wants all social networks to sign up to its Code of Conduct

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Instagram became the latest social network to sign up to the EU's code of conduct on fighting online hate speech on Friday.

The social network joins Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft, which all signed the code back in 2016, in committing to countering the spread of illegal hate speech online. EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Vĕra Jourová announced the addition of Instagram and also Google+ to the partnership in a press conference in Brussels.

The Code of Conduct focuses on the speedy removal of illegal content, with all participating companies pledging to review the majority of content reported to them within 24 hours of it first appearing on their platforms. The EU worked with social media platforms to develop the system in response to the proliferation of racist and xenophobic and terrorist content online. It functions as a kind of honor code monitored by the EU, and is not part of EU law.

The social media giants that are already signed up to the code removed 70 percent of all hate speech reported to them, up from 59 percent in May 2017, said EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Vĕra Jourová in a press conference in Brussels on Friday.

They were initially slow to boost the speed at which they reviewed requests, but are now all meeting their commitments under the code by reviewing 81 percent of removal requests within 24 hours of receiving them.

"Today's results clearly show that online platforms take seriously their commitment to review notifications and remove illegal hate speech within 24 hours," said European Commission Vice President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip.

But tech giants and the wider network involved in tackling illegal speech still need to make some improvements, cautioned Jourová. Social media giants should improve their feedback to users reporting hate speech and also need to work with law enforcement in member states to ensure illegal incidents are effectively prosecuted.

"The results of the independent tests released by the European Commission today show that our partnership is helping us to operate more quickly, more accurately and precisely at scale," said Thomas Myrup Kristensen, Facebook's managing director of EU affairs in a statement.

"There is always more we can do tackle hate speech and we are delighted that Instagram is signing up to the Code of Conduct and will take part in the next round of testing."