With European elections coming up in May 2019, you probably want to know how the European Union impacts your daily life, before you think about voting. In the latest in a series of posts on what Europe does for you, your family, your business and your wellbeing, we look at what Europe does for victims of online hate speech.
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Threats, abuse and intimidation posted on social media can go viral within seconds and wreak havoc on the victim’s life. Victims of online hate speech cannot remove the posts as easily as they spread. They depend on online platforms to help them. Over half of the citizens in the European Union (EU) follow debates on social media. According to a 2016 Eurobarometer survey, 75 % of people who follow or participate in online debates had witnessed or experienced abuse, threat or hate speech. Almost half of them said that this discouraged them from engaging in online discussions.
Hate speech, both offline and online is a criminal offence under EU law. Responding to the growing problem, the European Commission set up dialogues with online platforms and is funding projects to counter online hate speech. In May 2016, the Commission and four major platforms (Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube) announced a Code of Conduct on countering illegal hate speech online. Since then, more companies have joined, and they are increasingly meeting the goals of the Code of Conduct, including removing illegal hate speech within 24 hours. As a follow-up, in March 2018, the Commission recommended a set of operational measures to increase these efforts, before deciding whether to propose legislative measures. Vice-President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip said: ‘Online platforms are becoming people’s main gateway to information, so they have a responsibility to provide a secure environment for their users.’
- Code of Conduct — Illegal online hate speech Questions and answers, 2016, http://ec.europa.eu/newsroom/document.cfm?doc_id=41844
- Tackling Illegal Content Online, European Commission Communication, 2017, https://ec.europa.eu/transparency/regdoc/rep/1/2017/EN/COM-2017-555-F1-EN-MAIN-PART-1.PDF
- A Europe that protects: Commission reinforces EU response to illegal content online, 2018, http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-18-1169_en.htm