Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Big Tech Vows to Take on Hate Speech in Europe

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Big Tech Vows to Take on Hate Speech in Europe

Article excerpt

A number of tech giants agreed on Tuesday to work together with the European Union to enforce a new code of conduct regarding hate speech, in order to counter a rise in online racism following the terrorist attacks of the past year and the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe.

The group, which includes Facebook, Twitter, Google, YouTube, and Microsoft, agreed to review and take down hate speech content online within 24 hours.

Individual European countries have been in contact with social media platforms for some time, as concerns about hate speech proliferate.

"The recent terror attacks have reminded us of the urgent need to address illegal online hate speech," said EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova, according to Reuters. "Social media is unfortunately one of the tools that terrorist groups use to radicalize young people."

This ongoing discussion about the merits of free expression and the protection of individuals from the threat of discrimination has provoked strong feelings on either side of the debate.

Europe and the United States have traditionally construed free speech and expression on the Internet somewhat differently. In the US, free speech is protected by the First Amendment, even if offensive, unless that speech is directed against a specific individual or specifically threatens harm against an individual.

According to the Council of Europe's Manual on Hate Speech, freedom of expression, unlike freedom of thought, is not an absolute right. Furthermore, although the European Convention on Human Rights protects free speech, it also provides for reasonable legal restrictions in the face of crime or disorder.

While it may be easy to be concerned about Europe's approach to the freedom of expression, Europe has a cultural legacy regarding hate speech that many people elsewhere in the world may not appreciate, says Frederick Lawrence, a senior research scholar at Yale Law School.

Hate speech against certain religious, ethnic, or racial groups brings back memories of the rise of the Nazi party for many Europeans, Mr. …

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