Twitter, Facebook, Others Fail to Remove Hate Speech, EU Review Says

Twitter took longer to review hateful content and removed less of it in 2022 compared to last year, according to European Union data released Thursday.

The EU figures were published as part of an annual assessment of online platforms’ compliance with the 27-nation bloc’s code of conduct on disinformation.

Twitter wasn’t alone — most of the other tech companies that signed up to the voluntary code also got pretty bad results. But the figures could foreshadow Twitter’s trouble complying with the EU’s tough new internet rules after owner Elon Musk laid off most of its 7,500 full-time employees and countless contractors responsible for content moderation and other key tasks.

The EU report, carried out over six weeks in the spring, found that Twitter investigated more than half of the notifications it received about illegal hate speech within 24 hours, down from 82 percent in 2021.

In comparison, the number of flagged items Facebook updated within 24 hours dropped to 64 percent, Instagram dropped to 56.9 percent and YouTube dropped to 83.3 percent. TikTok came in at 92 percent, the only company to improve.

The amount of hate speech Twitter removed after it was flagged dropped to 45.4 percent from 49.8 percent a year ago. TikTok’s removal rate fell in the quarter to 60 percent, while Facebook and Instagram saw only a slight decline. Only YouTube’s takedown rate has increased, rising to 90 percent.

“It is worrying to see a decrease in the rate of revision of notices related to illegal hate speech on social media,” European Commission Vice President Vera Jourova said on Twitter. “Online hate speech is a scourge of the digital age and platforms need to live up to their responsibilities.”

Twitter did not respond to a request for comment. Emails to several employees of the company’s European communications team bounced back as undeliverable.

Musk’s acquisition of Twitter last month fueled widespread concern that purveyors of lies and misinformation will be allowed to flourish on the site. The billionaire Tesla CEO, who has always voiced his belief that Twitter has become too restrictive, has been restoring suspended accounts, including that of former President Donald Trump.

Twitter is eyeing wider scrutiny in Europe by the middle of next year, when new EU rules aimed at protecting internet users’ online safety will come into force on the internet’s biggest platforms. Violations can result in hefty fines of up to 6 percent of a company’s annual worldwide revenue.

French internet regulator Arcom said it had received a response from Twitter after it wrote to the company earlier this week saying it was concerned about the effect the staff move would have on Twitter’s “ability to maintain a safe environment for its users.”

Arcom also asked the company to ensure it can meet its “legal obligations” in combating hate speech online and that it is committed to implementing new EU internet rules. Arcom said it received a response from Twitter and that it would “read their response,” without providing further details.

Technology companies that have signed up to the EU code of disinformation agree to commit to measures aimed at reducing misinformation and to include regular reports on whether they are fulfilling their promises, although there is little penalty mechanism.

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